Defense attorneys representing 10 of the 11 alleged gang members connected to anti-gay hate crimes requested more time with their clients while appearing in Bronx Supreme Court Thursday afternoon.
Lawyers said more time with the defendants, thought to be part of a gang called the Latin King Goonies, would help familiarize them with the facts of the case before pretrial hearings resume next week. Jason Foy, who represents suspect David Rivera, said he had only met his client moments before appearing in front of the judge.
“Sometimes everything isn’t clear when an arrest is made like this,” said John O’Connell, the defense attorney for Bryan Almonte. “Maybe someone isn’t as guilty as it appears in the paperwork.”
According to O’Connell, Almonte, 16, suffers from diabetes and epilepsy. He said because of this, his client is the only suspect being held in protective custody.
Almonte and Rivera were two of the young men, ranging in age from 16 to 26, arrested after allegedly brutalizing two 17-year-old boys and a 30-year-old man, whom they presumed to be gay. The initial attacks took place in the early evening of Oct. 3 at 1910 Osborne Place in Morris Heights. Later that night, some of the suspects robbed and assaulted the eldest victim’s brother in his apartment. Charges against the defendants include abduction, unlawful imprisonment and assault, as hate crimes.
The 11th suspect, Luis Garcia, was not apprehended by the New York City Hate Crime Task Force and Special Victims detectives until Thursday at 5 p.m. from his Bronx apartment on Hennessey Place.
Although the defendants haven’t been indicted, news of the crimes has provoked outrage among community members, as well as city and state officials.
“These suspects had employed terrible wolf pack odds,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a press conference last Friday. “Odds which reveal them as predators whose crimes were as cowardly as they were despicable.”
But defense lawyers tried to combat generalizations about the defendants.
“Not every one of the defendants is going to be indicted,” said Benjamin Heinrich, counsel for Ruddy Vargas. “Ruddy is as appalled as everybody else.”
Defense attorneys won’t have a chance to make their case until as early as Oct. 21, when eight of the defendants return to court. Until then, Sanders Denis, the lawyer representing Ildefonso Mendez, hopes the media will let the court system play out before making assumptions.
“Stop making him a monster,” Denis said of Mendez to reporters outside the courtroom. “There is a system of justice; he is presumed innocent.”