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Sentence Reduced In Gay-Bashing Murder

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Sentence Reduced In Gay-Bashing Murder

by The Associated Press

February 10, 2006 - 11:00 am ET

(Manchester, Connecticut) A Superior Court judge has cut five years from the prison sentence of Sean Burke, one of two men convicted in a 1988 gay-bashing murder that sparked Connecticut's hate-crimes law.

Burke and co-defendant Marcos Perez were teenagers when they used a fireplace log to beat Richard Reihl to death outside Reihl's Wethersfield home in 1988.

In a 17-page decision, Judge Raymond Norko said he was impressed by Burke's efforts to rehabilitate himself in prison. Burke, now 35, has not received a single disciplinary report while behind bars, and has participate in numerous prison programs.

"If our society believes in the concept of rehabilitation while in prison, rather than just mouthing the concept, then the petitioner's conduct acquires merit," Norko wrote. "To not recognize proper rehabilitative conduct is harmful and promotes a dangerous standard of meaningless conduct by all prisoners."

Burke was due to be released in 2017. His new release date has not been calculated.

Reihl's sister, Nancy Reihl Leckerling, said she was disappointed by Norko's decision. At the November sentence modification hearing, she had asked Norko to uphold Burke's 40-year prison term.

During that same hearing, Burke asked for forgiveness.

"My soul, your honor, it's empty, and I want to use my life for the reparation of Richard's life," he said.

Burke sought the "sentence modification" under a little-used law that allows a judge to reopen the case if both the prosecution and defense attorneys agree to a hearing.

Burke had asked for the hearing based on a memo that then-prosecutor Kevin McMahon, now a Superior Court judge, wrote after Burke was originally sentenced in 1989.

In it, McMahon said he would support another look at Burke's 40-year sentence if Burke could prove that he was not a hardened criminal.

Friends and prison counselors described Burke as a model inmate who has sought redemption since the day he was sentenced to prison, literally becoming an altar 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.

©365Gay.com 2006

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