Jury ignores ‘panic’ defense; convicts Mickey Cass of 2nd-degree murder
Rejecting the defense that Mickey Cass acted under an “extreme emotional disturbance,” a Brooklyn jury found the 26-year-old defendant guilty of second-degree murder in the 2003 strangling death of Victor Dombrova Neto, a gay Brazilian immigrant.
“We are happy that he will be off the streets,” said Eryck Duran, executive director of the Brazilian Rainbow Group, a service and advocacy organization. “He poses a danger to every gay man who is out there. He is a predator.”
Cass had admitted to killing Dombrova Neto, but he also claimed that he had been sexually abused as a child. According to Cass, when Dombrova Neto, 27, made a sexual advance toward him in the Brooklyn apartment the two men briefly shared, Cass flew into a disturbed state, caused by that earlier abuse, and killed Dombrova Neto.
Had the jury accepted Cass’ claim that he had acted under an “extreme emotional disturbance,” it would have reduced the charge against him to manslaughter, which carries a possible sentence of 5-to-25-years in prison. Cass is now facing a sentence of 25-years-to-life.
The jury began deliberations late in the afternoon on October 5 and the verdict came early in the afternoon on October 6.
Altogether, the jury deliberated less than six hours.
Maria Ribeiro Dombrova, Dombrova Neto’s grieving mother, had traveled from Brazil to testify during the trial.
The verdict was a welcome development.
“I cannot say that she was happy,” Duran said. “I believe that she was relieved.”
Cass has also admitted to the 2002 strangling death of Kevin Bosinski, a gay man, in Buffalo.
The Bosinski family also came to Brooklyn to observe the murder trial.
Duran said that the verdict was difficult for everyone.
“It was very emotional,” he said. “Once the jury came out everyone was actually holding hands. Everyone was very tearful.”
Clarence Patton, director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, said the jury’s rejection of the “extreme emotional disturbance” defense was a good sign.
“We’re glad to see justice done for Victor and we are encouraged by the fact that today a New York jury did not buy a homosexual panic defense,” Patton said.
In a homosexual panic defense, a defendant claims that a sexual advance from a gay man caused him to fly into a rage and commit murder. Many in the queer community see this defense as unjust and deeply offensive.
Cass apparently contributed to his guilty verdict by battling with his attorney, John B. Stella, over his defense. On September 27, Stella told Gay City News that Cass wanted to pursue an insanity defense which, if believed by the jury, would excuse Cass entirely for the crime. Two psychologists interviewed Cass and neither produced evidence that supports an insanity defense, according to Stella.
The “extreme emotional disturbance” defense was Stella’s choice, but initially, Cass would not allow it. Stella did not make an opening statement to the jury fearing that if he mentioned the defense and then Cass continued to oppose it, the jury would react badly. Cass relented on September 29, two days after the start of the trial, and allowed the defense.
Stella did not return a telephone call seeking his comment on the verdict. The Brooklyn district attorney also declined to comment.
Cass will be sentenced on October 26 by Judge Gustin L. Reichback of the Supreme Court at 120 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn.