Florida prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against three members of a Ukrainian immigrant family accused of beating a gay man so severely that he went blind.
Prosecutors say that Inna Makarenko, 44, Yehven Makarenko, 43, and Oleh Makarenko, 21, are all accused of breaking into a Pompano Beach home on August 6, 2021, and allegedly beating a 31-year-old gay man so badly that he sustained serious injuries and was permanently blinded as a result.
All three have been charged with first-degree attempted murder, battery during the burglary of a dwelling, and kidnapping as hate crimes. Prosecutors with the Broward County State Attorney’s Office have claimed that the family allegedly targeted the victim because of his sexual orientation.
A fourth family member has also been charged with attempted first-degree murder, battery during the burglary of a dwelling, and kidnapping, but none of those charges were filed as a hate crime, reports Miami-based Fox affiliate WSVN.
Oleh Makarenko, who faces the same charges as his parents, is accused of driving his family to the house, witnessing the incident, and failing to intervene by calling 911 so the victim could get medical assistance, according to prosecutors.
Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested the family on March 10, and all four are being held without bond. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, and were scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.
The maximum penalty for each of the three charges is life in state prison.
Friends and family of the Makarenkos say they are shocked by the charges and believe the plaintiffs are innocent. They also fear that a guilty verdict could result in the Makarenkos — who have lived in Pompano Beach since 2016 — could be deported back to Ukraine, potentially endangering their lives due to the ongoing violence stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“All we know is they are 100% innocent and we have proof of that, but it’s just sad to see how they can just take an entire family like that — just based on accusations — and there is nothing we can do at this point now because it’s in legal hands,” a family friend said in a statement given to Miami-area ABC affiliate WPLG.
Family friends have set up a Change.org petition asking supporters to sign the petition in support of the family as they fight “false accusations.” The petition also asked viewers to donate money to help defray legal the family’s legal costs.
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