Thursday, November 20, 2008

II - Long Island group charged with hate crimes


November 21, 2008
New York Times
6 Long Island Teens Charged With Hate Crimes

Lawyers for the six defendants arraigned on Thursday argued that their clients were being unfairly charged with crimes committed by others in the group. They also said that the defendants were not racist and pointed to the young men’s friends, black, white and Hispanic, filling the courtroom seats.

Chris Kirby, the lawyer for Mr. Pacheco, said in court that his client was of Hispanic descent and therefore incapable of a racist attack. “The idea that he, of Hispanic heritage, would beat up another Hispanic is patently absurd,” Mr. Kirby said.

Mr. Lucero’s killing has brought to the fore a fierce debate about race relations in Patchogue, a comfortable village of 11,700. Latinos make up a quarter of the population, according to the 2000 census. With the numbers of Latinos in the county growing and the economy weakening , some residents say there is a deepening resentment toward illegal immigrants, particularly day laborers.

County officials have insisted the attack was not connected to any simmering racial tensions in Patchogue or Medford. County Executive Steve Levy, long a proponent of crackdowns on illegal immigrants, called the defendants “white supremacists.” Michael Mostow, the superintendent of Patchogue-Medford School District, said there was no racial strife at the high school the teenagers attended and described the attack as “an aberration.”

The killing of Mr. Lucero yielded an outpouring of outrage and grief that rippled beyond the tightly knit Hispanic community here. His body was flown this week to his hometown, the mountain city of Gualaceo, Ecuador, and mourners by the hundreds met his coffin, Newsday reported

At a news conference after the arraignments, Hispanic leaders and members of Mr. Lucero’s family said they were pleased with the upgraded charges. At first, the defendants were accused of fewer crimes, and Mr. Conroy faced a charge of manslaughter, but not murder.

Cesar Perales, president and general counsel of the advocacy group Latino Justice P.R.L.D.E.F. said the new charges were important in restoring Hispanics’ faith in the county’s justice system.

Fernando Mateo, a spokesman for the Lucero family, said that while he was pleased that “justice would be served,” he did not believe recent reports that hate crimes had plummeted in the county in the last few years. “Hunting season is over for this group now,” Mr. Mateo said, as Mr. Lucero’s brother, Joselo, stood silently by his side. “It was a hobby to them, I know it started out as a game, but it turned into a murder.”

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