A Supreme Court judge has axed five years off the 40-year sentence of Sean Burke, who was convicted of beating a gay man to death with a fireplace log in 1998.

Judge Raymond Norko modified Burke’s sentence for good behaviour, despite opposition from family members of the victims. Burke, who had been scheduled to be released in 2017, is now up for release in 2012.

Burke and Marcos Perez were found guilty of beating Richard Reihl to death. Both killers were teenagers at the time, the Associated Press reported. The murder was influential in leading Connecticut’s legislature to institute hate crime penalties for violence against gay men and lesbians.

Burke, now 35, has reportedly been an exemplary prisoner and displayed profound regret for his actions since his incarceration. At his latest sentencing hearing in November, he told the judge: “My soul, your honour, it’s empty, and I want to use my life for the reparation of Richard’s life.”

“I’m sorry,” he told the Reihl family, as quoted by the Associated Press. “I know you have pain… I know I have pain and it’s deep in my heart.”

“Everything I do, that’s my redemption. That’s my remorse. And when I do the things I do, I don’t do them for me. I do them for Richard, and I want to be the person he was. I beg for your forgiveness. I don’t care about the time. I just beg for your forgiveness. I am truly sorry.”

But Nancy Reihl Leckerling, the victim’s sister, said she was disappointed by Judge Norko’s decision.

“For us, it’s not about the personal any more,” she said. “Nothing can bring our brother Richard back.”

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