Defendant in infamous hate-crime case asks for reduced sentence
Published November 17 2005

MANCHESTER, Conn. -- A man convicted of the deadly beating that prompted Connecticut's hate-crimes law sobbed Thursday as he asked for forgiveness from his victim's family.

Sean Burke, 35, was in Manchester Superior Court to ask Judge Raymond Norko to reduce his 40-year sentence for killing Richard Reihl, a gay man, in 1988.

"I beg for your forgiveness," Burke said Thursday. "I don't care about the time. I just beg for your forgiveness. My soul, your honor, is empty, and I want to use my life for the reparation of Richard's life."

Burke was described as a man who has sought redemption since the day he was sentenced to prison, literally becoming an alter boy and counseling children and others.

But Reihl's family asked the judge not to reconsider Burke's sentence, saying it would send an inconceivable message about the tolerance for hate crimes.

Burke and a friend, Marcos Perez, were convicted in 1989, when they were teenagers. Perez, who is serving a 35-year sentence, had his request for a reduction hearing denied.

Prosecutors said Reihl met the two at a gay bar and invited them to his Wethersfield home. They bound his mouth with duct tape and beat him to death with a fireplace log.

Former state lawmaker Miles Rapoport, who co-sponsored hate-crimes legislation that took effect in 1990, said Thursday that Reihl's death was the catalyst.

"This murder struck huge fear into the gay community in Hartford," he said. "Seventeen years ago, there was a great deal less acceptance of homosexuality and tolerance was not necessarily presumed. People were frightened, people were deeply concerned, and they wanted legislative action."

Norko did not say when would rule on Burke's request.

Gay rights activists said they oppose any reduction in Burke's sentence.