The 17-year-old charged with murder as a hate crime in the fatal stabbing of a gay Black dancer O’Shae Sibley at a Brooklyn gas station has pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on Friday, August 11.
The teenager, Dmitriy Popov, entered the plea in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, where he will be tried as an adult. He faces a possible maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.
The hate crime count could increase any minimum sentence to 20 years from 15.
The killing Mr. Popov is accused of committing occurred on July 29, when the dancer, O’Shae Sibley, and a group of friends stopped for gas at a filling station in the Midwood section of Brooklyn while on their way home from the beach, prosecutors said.
As Mr. Sibley, 28, and his friends danced to a Beyoncé song, another group of people began to yell homophobic and anti-Black slurs at them, prosecutors said. A witness told the authorities he saw Mr. Popov stab Mr. Sibley. Mr. Popov, who lives in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, was arrested several days later.
Justice Craig S. Walker ordered that Mr. Popov, in a bright blue hoodie, black jogging pants, and white sneakers, continue to be held without bail at a juvenile detention center and he warned the teenager to stay out of trouble. Mr. Popov is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 10.
After the arraignment, Mr. Popov’s lawyer, Mark Pollard, said he might pursue a self-defense argument at trial. Surveillance video of the fatal altercation, he said, showed Mr. Popov recording what was happening and moving backward as he was approached by people who were older and bigger than him.
“He regrets what happens, he certainly does,” Mr. Pollard said. “But that doesn’t mean that he’s guilty of a crime. It’s two different things.”
Mr. Popov’s mother and grandmother were in court but declined to speak to reporters.
Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, noted at a news conference on Thursday that Mr. Sibley’s death had prompted an outpouring of grief among people across, and outside, New York.
“This crime, while clearly impacting his family and loved ones, has impacted the entirety of Brooklyn, the entirety of the city and I dare say the entire nation,” Mr. Gonzalez said.
Hate crimes endanger the targeted group’s “sense of safety and security,” the district attorney said, adding that L.G.B.T.Q. people were already feeling “particularly vulnerable” because of state laws directed at them that are being adopted across the country.
Originally from Philadelphia, Mr. Sibley had moved to New York to advance his dance career. Friends said he was preparing to audition for “The Lion King,” one of his favorite Broadway musicals.
Mr. Sibley’s friends described him as determined to pursue his dreams. He was part of a tight-knit group of dancers who worked together on videos, competitions and performances, and who would gather to vogue at Pier 46 on the Hudson River.