Cops: 4 charged in hate crime attack in Babylon
Four young Oceanside men have been charged with a hate crime after a Suffolk prosecutor said they beat two men in Babylon while calling them a common anti-gay slur early Sunday.
Two of the defendants, Shane Buckley, 18, and Justin Buckley, 17, are the younger brothers of Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., 21, who was killed last August while serving in Afghanistan. He was just days from a surprise visit home when a 15-year-old boy working for an Afghan police chief shot him and two other Marines to death.
The Buckleys and Gregory Gilbert, 20, and Nicholas Battaglia, 18, were walking on Deer Park Avenue at about 3:30 a.m. when they called across the street to ask two men how to get to the Babylon train station, said Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Opisso.
"The four assailants started yelling anti-gay slurs and crossed the street and attacked them," Opisso said. The men were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, court papers said, where one was admitted with a broken nose that will require surgery.
Attempts to reach the victims were unsuccessful.
Reached by phone, Gregory Buckley Sr., Shane's and Justin's father, said his sons are "great kids," denied they are homophobic and said police are "blowing it out of proportion."
"No way. Not in a million years," he said of the allegations that his sons committed a hate crime.
Opisso said blood was found on Shane Buckley's sneaker, and he said upgraded charges could be filed. For now, all four are charged with third-degree assault as a hate crime. All except Justin Buckley are also charged with second-degree gang assault.
Opisso declined to say what triggered the fight, which was broken up by an off-duty New York City police officer. Defense attorneys said the two men started the fight with insults after being asked how to get to the train station.
Opisso asked District Court Judge G. Ann Spelman to set bail at $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond. Justin Buckley's attorney, Jonathan Manley of Central Islip, called that request "absurd," and Spelman, noting that none of the defendants had criminal record, set bail at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond. None of the defendants commented after posting bail.
Outside court, Manley said there was "absolutely no evidence that sexual orientation was a motivating factor . . . This has been totally blown up by the police department."
Gilbert's attorney, Anthony Senft Jr. of East Islip, said use of the slur was not evidence of anti-gay bias or of a hate crime.
Ronkonkoma attorney Anthony Ciaccio, who represents the man hospitalized with a broken nose, said that despite the hate crime charge, his client isn't gay. He said the man was "viciously attacked for no reason."
"To quote a really bad Seinfeld episode, 'My client's not gay, not that there's anything wrong with that,' " Ciaccio said. "The law doesn't require someone to be in a protected class for a suspect to be charged with a hate crime."
In a statement, David Kilmnick, chief executive of the Long Island GLBT Services Network, which advocates for gay and transgender people, called news of the attack "disturbing and frightening."