St Maarten gay bashing trial postponed

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The trial of four men accused of attacking two gay American tourists was postponed so that a victim can return to testify in a St Maarten court this week.

Prosecutors requested postponement, saying that finances kept Ryan Smith, 25, from travelling to the Caribbean country in time for the trial, The Associated Press reports.

Chief prosecutor Taco Stein told The AP on Wednesday that his office would help pay for Smith’s return for the trial, which is scheduled to resume October 31.

“The government of St Maarten has also stated its willingness to assist,” Stein told The AP in a telephone interview. “After all, this case was not good promotion for the island.”

Mr Smith, a production secretary at CBS News and his friend Richard Jefferson, a broadcast producer at CBS News in New York, were severely beaten as they left a bar April 6 in St Maarten, the island’s Dutch side.

Mr Smith suffered massive brain damage and was unable to speak properly for months.

Mr Jefferson, 51, whose skull was cracked by a blow from a tire iron, recovered and returned to the island to give authorities his account of the attack, which he called a hate crime. He is not expected to testify in the trial.

According to a report from CBS News, the incident happened in the early morning hours of April 6 when the pair were standing outside a bar, with several friends.

In an April interview, Mr Jefferson told CBS News the attack happened after Mr Smith got a hug from a friend, comforting him over the recent death of a relative.

Mr Jefferson said some men nearby began making anti-gay slurs. “A white car came screaming out of nowhere and attempted to run us down,” he said. “One came towards me with a tire wrench. I thought, ‘What the hell?’ and then I got whacked on the head. The next thing I know, I’m waiting for the ambulance.”

The men were airlifted to Miami for medical treatment.

The four suspects have been charged with attempted murder and manslaughter. Stein declined to identify them.

At the start of the trial, Judge Rick Smid dismissed defence lawyers’ request to release their clients from detention, The AP reports.

“We’re talking here about a case of public violence that had very serious consequences,” Mr Smid said.

The island of St Maarten is a popular Caribbean tourist destination. It is located 150 miles southeast of Puerto Rico and is governed by France and the Netherlands.

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