3 convicted in 'bashing' at gay bar Dundalk men may face prison

June 26, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

In a case presented by prosecutors as a test of Baltimore's tolerance for "gay-bashing," three Dundalk men were convicted yesterday for their roles last year in a Southeast Baltimore bar fight.

Anthony M. Ambrosino Jr., 22, faces three life terms after being found guilty of three counts of attempted first-degree murder for running down three men as he drove past Numbers, a Canton bar that served a predominantly gay clientele. Two of Ambrosino's friends, brothers James A. Randolph, 24, and Matthew T. Randolph, 22, were both found guilty of two counts of assault for their role in the March 27, 1992, melee outside the bar.

A juror interviewed after the verdict was announced said: "The evidence all added up to the fact that these three young men were looking to kick around some gays, and they had hate in their hearts when they went there.

"Society will not tolerate gay-bashing or hate crimes," added the juror, who spoke on the condition that she not be named. "This was clearly a hate crime."

Presiding Judge Kenneth Lavon Johnson revoked the men's bail and ordered them held pending sentencing, set for Sept. 9. He called them liars and "three, in my view, very dangerous individuals."

"They went out and they beat these people without any reason whatsoever," the judge added. "As for Ambrosino, I'm convinced he tried to kill someone."

During the two-week trial, bar patrons testified that Ambrosino hTC taunted them with slurs such as "fag," sparking a fight that escalated when he and his friends produced baseball bats and other weapons from the trunk of Ambrosino's car. Ambrosino was also convicted of one count of assault with intent to maim for striking one bar patron with a baseball bat, a deadly weapons charge and three counts of assault.

Three men said they sustained injuries ranging from a broken leg to splintered teeth after being struck by a car driven by Ambrosino.

A lawyer for the Dundalk men, who were arrested at the scene of the brawl, denied they started the fight and said they were simply trying to defend themselves after a bar patron touched off the brawl by grabbing the buttocks of one of his clients.

Ambrosino denied taunting bar patrons but said that after the fight began, he told James Randolph, "Don't do it; you're going to catch AIDS."

"In the heat of the fight, I may have called someone a fag," he testified. Defense witnesses said the bar patrons produced weapons, including a baseball bat and a 5-foot crowbar.

The men's lawyer, Donald Daneman, suggested that the real motive for the gay-bashing allegations was a $23.5 million lawsuit filed by the bar patrons against his clients.

Of the men's testimony, the juror said: "Their stories were flawed. They had holes in them bigger than the Grand Canyon."

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for five hours before reaching a verdict.

The defendants, all dressed in jackets and ties, turned to their families before being led out of the courtroom but displayed little emotion.

Afterward, Earl F. Jones, a bouncer at the bar who said he has been unable to work because of back injuries sustained when he was hit by the car, said the defendants got what they deserved.

But he questioned whether the men were motivated by a hatred for homosexuals.

"They were just looking for trouble," said Mr. Jones, who said he is not a homosexual. He said Numbers, which closed after the attack, has reopened under a new name as a "straight bar."

As he spoke outside the courthouse, the three men were being led handcuffed across the street for the drive to the Baltimore City Detention Center.

None of the men responded to a reporter's request for comment on the verdict.

Other victims described the incident as a gay-bashing.

Henry J. Kirkpatrick, a 35-year-old gay man who was assaulted during the melee, called the verdict "a landmark case for the gay community of the United States and the world. For one thing, we caught them on the scene, and the jury actually believed us."

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