PALM SPRINGS, Ca.
Two men pleaded guilty Monday to felony charges for attacking a married gay couple in Palm Springs who both ended up hospitalized as a result of the hate crime.
Christopher James Carr, 31, and Keith Edward Terranova, 36, admitted assaulting George and Christopher Zander in a Palm Springs parking lot on the night of Nov. 1, 2015.
Carr pleaded guilty to assault and admitted a hate crime allegation and was immediately sentenced to four years in state prison, while Terranova pleaded guilty to assault and received a three-year probationary term.
The plea agreements were reached as their trial date neared.
Deputy District Attorney Arthur C. Hester said both sides “reached an agreement that we felt was fair to everyone involved.”
Palm Springs police said the Zanders were confronted and beaten up because of their sexual orientation. According to Lt. Mike Kovaleff, the victims walked past one of the two defendants on South Calle Encilia about 8:40 p.m. and words were exchanged, including a homophobic remark.
The victims continued walking to the parking lot at the corner of South Calle Encilia and East Tahquitz Canyon Way, where they were confronted by the men, who attacked them and then fled in a car, the lieutenant said.
Witnesses testified at a June 2016 preliminary hearing that Christopher Zander was punched in the face by Carr and sustained injuries to the back of his head when he hit the ground, while George Zander was thrown or pushed to the ground by Terranova, who was also accused of threatening the men with a tire iron.
Chris Zander suffered a serious cut to the back of his head that required staples, and his 71-year-old husband suffered a broken hip that required surgery, authorities said.
Terranova turned himself in at the Palm Springs Police Station on Nov. 11, 2015, while Carr was arrested about 2 1/2 weeks later in Desert Hot Springs.
Since the arrests, several charges initially filed were stricken, including a hate crime allegation for Terranova and elder abuse charges for Carr.
At the preliminary hearing, witness testimony pointed to Carr making the homophobic statements, but no such evidence could be found for Terranova.
His attorney, Christopher DeSalva, argued that Terranova only accompanied Carr to the parking lot after receiving a phone call, in which Carr claimed he had been attacked by a group of men.
“Whatever occurred, which is unclear, occurred as to Mr. Terranova not because of sexual orientation of anyone, but simply because he is coming to the said of a friend who had called him telling him he had been jumped,” DeSalva said at the hearing.
Carr’s attorney, Dennette McIntyre, argued then that the prosecution had not shown a strong enough connection between the impetus for the fight and the motivations behind a hate crime.
“I think derogatory statements are made when you’re in a fight. I think that’s a reasonable conclusion. I think Mr. Carr got jumped the first time around, and whether he did call Mr. Terranova for a little revenge or not, I do think that’s what the evidence has supported,” McIntyre said.
George Zander died on Dec. 10, 2015, at Desert Regional Medical Center, though any connection between his injuries and his death could not be definitively determined.