The panel of three judges hearing the Fernando Báez Sosa murder trial have sentenced five of the eight rugby players on trial for his killing to life imprisonment for aggravated homicide and the other three, to 15 years for their roles in the crime. The verdict was handed down this noon in a packed Dolores Court 1 in Buenos Aires province.
Máximo Thomsen, Ciro Pertossi, Matías Benicelli, Luciano Pertossi and Enzo Comelli were handed life sentences, while Ayrton Viollaz, Blas Cinalli and Lucas Pertossi were condemned to 15 years in prison for taking part in the crime. All eight had been held in pre-trial detention since they killed Baez Sosa in January 2020.
As they stood silently as they heard the judges’ decision, Máximo Thomsen fainted in court. The reading was stopped as he received medical aid, before resuming only to end the hearing and dismiss those present.
The eight were transferred immediately back to the Dolores prison.
Báez Sosa, an 18-year-old from Buenos Aires, was beaten to death outside a nightclub in the coastal resort city of Villa Gesell in January 2020.
January 18, 2020
In over a dozen hearings in the trial that started on January 2, the series of actions leading to the murder of Baez Sosa were described.
That night in Le Brique nightclub in Villa Gesell started like crowded parties everywhere: on a packed dance floor, Fernando and his friends knocked into a group of rugby players from the city of Zárate, to the north of Buenos Aires. What started out as an altercation descended into a fight, and both groups were thrown out by the bouncers.
Outside the club, instead of calling it quits, the rugby players turned on Fernando, knocking him to the floor and beating him savagely, according to witnesses and CCTV footage. Within minutes, he was dead.
During the trial, which started on January 2, several witnesses testified that some of the eight rugby players convicted of his murder called Báez Sosa racist slurs while they kicked him on the floor.
According to the judge’s ruling, his murder was carried out by taking advantage of the victim’s vulnerability – lying on the floor, with no possibility to defend himself – which justifies the accusation that malice aforethought was an aggravating factor in his killing.
The sentence reads that “there was a clear will on behalf of the accused of ending the life of Baez Sosa, kicking him in the head and body, causing him injustice that ended his life.”
“They showed no mercy,” said Graciela Sosa Osorio, his mother, during the trial. “Fernando was a human being, and they called him negro, how can someone discriminate like this?”
In Argentina, the term negro – literally, “black” – doesn’t refer exclusively to people of African descent, and is often used to refer to darker-skinned or Indigenous people. While it can be a term of endearment depending on context, it can also be used as a racist slur.
Baez Sosa was the son of two working-class immigrants from the town of Carapeguá, Paraguay. Before his murder, he was about to start studying law. Had he graduated, he would have become the first university graduate in his family.
“This is just the beginning,” said Fernando Burlando, the Baez Sosa family’s attorney, after declaring that the family will appeal for all eight of the accused to be sentenced to life in prison.
“They’re undermining the participation of the accused,” he said, referring to the three who were sentenced to 15 years for taking part in the crime.
Earlier today, Baez Sosa’s mother, Sosa Osorio, said before the cameras that “the moment had finally arrived” and that they expected life imprisonment for the eight young men from Zárate.
It is unclear whether the defendant’s attorney, Hugo Tomei, will appeal the sentence.