Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prosecutor: Teens targeted Hispanics - 7 arraigned in fatal 'hate crime'

|andrew.strickler@newsday.com john.valenti@newsday.com
Suspects Busted in Hate Crime

Jeffrey Conroy, 17, is led out of Fifth Precinct in Patchogue for arraignment in Central Islip. Conroy was the alleged stabber in what police say was a hate crime turned fatal in Patchogue. (Photo by James Carbone / November 10, 2008)

In front of a courtroom at times crowded with family members of seven teens accused in a fatal hate crime stabbing, a Suffolk prosecutor Monday said the group was "determined" to find a victim of Hispanic descent.

"In their own words, 'Let's go find some Mexicans to -- -- up,' " said Assistant District Attorney Nancy Clifford at First District Court in Central Islip.

"This was not some high school prank," Clifford said. "This was a well thought out crime specifically targeting Hispanic males."

The victim, Marcello Lucero, 38, of Patchogue, was attacked and killed near the Long Island Rail Road station in Patchogue late Saturday, police said.

Lucero is Hispanic and originally from Ecuador. Six of the seven suspects are white; one is Hispanic. All of them are 17, except for one who is 16.

The alleged crime reverberated from the halls of the governor's office in Albany to the streets of ethnically diverse Patchogue.

Gov. David A. Paterson said state law enforcement agencies would assist Suffolk County "in any way possible to ensure swift and certain justice for this heinous crime."

"This disgraceful act should serve as a source of outrage for all of us," Paterson said in a statement.

In court, as the judge ordered the one accused of wielding the knife, Jeffrey Conroy, 17, held without bail, Conroy's father bowed his head and wept.

Seconds later, his mother, surrounded by several other family members in a court foyer, sank to her knees. Her cries were audible as Conroy was led shackled from the courtroom.

Christopher Overton, the youngest of the group who is also awaiting sentencing for his involvement in a violent home invasion which left a man dead, was held on $250,000 cash bail, or $500,000 bond.

The other defendants -- Kevin Shea, 17, Jordan Dasch, 17, Nicholas Hausch, 17, and Jose Pacheco, 17 -- were all held on $150,000 cash bail, or 300,000 bond.

All the suspects pleaded not guilty.

"I find it interesting at the very least that my client is named Jose Pacheco and is also of Hispanic heritage," said Pacheco's attorney, Chris Kirby of Syosset.

Other attorneys for the suspects questioned their clients' alleged role in the attack.

"Not everyone present during the incident was responsible for what happened," said Anthony LaPinta, who represents Overton. He acknowledged that Overton was "in the vicinity" when Lucero was stabbed but said his client did not arrive there with the other suspects.

He also denied that the attack was planned. "There is no truth to that whatsoever," LaPinta said. "There was no hunting here."

Clifford said Overton's arrest violated the terms of a plea deal he made with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of burglary related to the 2007 home invasion in which Carlton Shaw was killed at his East Patchogue home.

She said she would ask the judge in that case to move up the sentencing, which was postponed last month.

"Clearly this defendant cannot be on the street," she said.

Prosecutors described a planned attack in which the group drove around in an attempt to go "Beaner jumping," as the suspects called it under police questioning. They were seeking out a Hispanic victim after one or more of the suspects days earlier knocked another man down, only to have him escape, prosecutors said.

"Their motivation was to find Latinos and to assault them," Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said of the teens charged in connection with the crime. "That's what they went out to do that night and that's exactly what they did."

After spotting Lucero and another man near the Patchogue train station, "like a lynch mob, [Conroy] and his friends got out of their car and surrounded Mr. Lucero and his friend," Clifford said.

The suspects hurled racial epithets before launching the attack, Fitzpatrick said.



Related links

Powered by FeedBurner

No comments: