The four young men accused of attacking a gay couple on South Beach face stiffer penalties after prosecutors charged them Thursday under Florida's hate-crime enhancement law.
The group was charged with aggravated battery committed with prejudice, which means each could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the attack that took place during Miami Beach's annual gay-pride parade.
Police say the attack happened in April after one of the victims accidentally bumped into 21-year-old Juan Carlos Lopez near a bathroom area near Ocean Drive and Sixth Street.
Lopez and his companions, Luis M. Alonso Piovet, 20; Adonis Diaz, 21; and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa, 21, began to call the victims "maricones," an anti-gay slur in Spanish, police said.
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As depicted on surveillance video, the attackers repeatedly punched the two gay men, Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov, in the face, causing cuts and bruises. The blows temporarily knocked out Logunov.
An onlooker, Helmut Muller, chased the attackers to try and get them to stop. He was also beaten up. He had to get four stitches for a cut to the back of the head. Miami Beach city officials later honored him for helping the beaten couple.
One of the attackers was wearing an FIU shirt, prompting outrage from students and alumni and a statement from the university on social media.
A day after the attack, Miami Beach police released surveillance video of the attack, asking for the public's help to capture the men. The group, accompanied by its lawyer, surrendered to police the following day.
Under Florida law, aggravated battery is normally a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But if it's committed because of someone's sexual orientation, the crime becomes a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
The charges were filed by prosecutors Justin Funck and Luis Caso, who are part of the State Attorney's Hate Crimes Unit. The defendants are also charged with felonies related to attacks on Muller and another man.
The four young men and their lawyer, Dennis Gonzalez, declined to comment.