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Suspect In Violent Attack On Gay Couple In Chelsea Appears In Court

Alfonso Lanier, 23, Enters No Plea; Police Search For More Suspects

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Chelsea residents breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday, following the arrest of a man in connection with a brutal attack on a gay couple last month.

As CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported, Alfonso Lanier, 23, appeared in court Wednesday morning as police continued to search for additional suspects in the case.

He was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated harassment and felony assault as a hate crime, police said. He entered no plea and is being held on $25,000 bond or $15,000 cash, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported. Prosecutors had requested Lainer be held without bail.

Lanier was silent as prosecutors painted a picture of the violent attack.

Police said Lanier was picked up for trespassing and, during questioning, made statements implicating himself in the attack.

A grand jury will be asked to indict Lanier on a charge of assault as a hate crime, which would carry a maximum penalty of four years in prison, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

The attack happened early on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 14, in the area of West 25th Street and Ninth Avenue.

Alfonso Lanier, suspected of an anti-gay attack in Chelsea, appears in court on Sept. 18, 2013. (credit: Image via CBS 2)

Alfonso Lanier, suspected of an anti-gay attack in Chelsea, appears in court on Sept. 18, 2013. (credit: Jefferson Siegel/N.Y. Daily News)

Peter Notman and Michael Felenchak had just left the Chelsea Bowtie Cinemas when two other men approached them and began yelling anti-gay slurs, police said.

They then punched and kicked the victims repeatedly, police said. That’s when three or four more men joined in on the attack, police said.

“It was six of them against the two of us,” Notman said. “Typical of the cowards they are.”

Felenchak, 27, and Notman, 53, were able to use their cell phones to call police. The suspects fled on Ninth Avenue in the direction of 25th Street after the attack, police said.

The two were taken to Beth Israel Hospital and treated for their injuries.

“I was hit with brass knuckles down the side of my face,” Notman told CBS 2 shortly after the attack. “I had contusions, had to have an MRI and Michael received several stitches in his mouth where they punched us.”

Felenchak ended up requiring a total of seven stitches.

On Tuesday morning, Notman told CBS 2 off camera that he is happy that Lanier was arrested. But he was still shaken, because several others involved in the attack remained free.

News of the arrest is bringing relief to residents in Chelsea, Jiang reported. But neighbors were still shocked that such an attack would happen in one of the city’s most gay-friendly neighborhoods.

“I don’t understand how you can live in this community and have anti-gay bias,” said Chelsea resident Joe Landry. “There’s gay people everywhere.”

Chelsea is also home to Lanier, who lives just three blocks from Notman.
A man who answered the door at Lanier’s apartment had little to say.

“He will fight it in court,” the man said. When asked if he thought Lanier was capable of fighting the charge, the man slammed the door.

Lanier is due back in court next week. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

Meanwhile, the search for more suspects continued Tuesday. Police released sketches of two of the suspects shortly after the incident.

There has been a rash of anti-gay attacks across the city this year.

On May 5, Nick Porto and his partner Kevin Atkins were beaten near Madison Square Garden after a group of men wearing Knicks shirts called them anti-gay slurs, police said.

On May 10, two men tried to get into an after-hours billiards hall on West 32nd Street but were not let in, police said. They were then approached by a group of approximately five others who shouted anti-gay slurs and beat the men, police said.

On May 18, Mark Carson, 32, was shot and killed by a man who first called him and his partner “f***ots” and asked if they were “gay wrestlers,” police said.

In July, two men were seen on a cell phone video hurling anti-gay slurs at the group of youths on the subway before allegedly shoving a woman to the floor while she was recording the incident, police said.

In August, a transgender woman died from her injuries after being attacked by a group of men in Harlem, police said.

Also on Tuesday, Steven Torres, 22, was indicted on second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon charges in connection with the death of 69-year-old Ever Orozco under the elevated 7 train tracks at Elmhurst and Roosevelt avenues.

Police said Torres confessed after claiming the victim was blowing kisses and making sexual advances but authorities said there is no evidence to support those claims, CBS 2 reported.

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