Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
Two Former Defendants in Bronx Anti-Gay Attacks Now Named As Victims
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Two teenagers once thought to be the perpetrators of a brutal anti-gay attack in the Bronx in October now appear to be named as victims.
Until now, investigators have maintained there were four victims that night, two men and two teenagers. But the grand jury has named two new victims, Bryan Almonte and Brian Cepeda. Those are the same names of two of the defendants originally charged in the case and later released, though prosecutors have not confirmed they are the same people.
The indictment says Almonte was assaulted while Cepeda was threatened with a pair of pliers. The four other victims were allegedly attacked with a can, a stick, a pipe, a bat and a lit cigarette.
The defendants are facing 75 total counts, including gang assault, sexual abuse, robbery and burglary. Several offenses have been charged as hate crimes, and the most serious counts each carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.
David Rivera is one of only two defendants facing all 75 charges. His lawyer, Jason Foy, said it was a mistake to accuse his client of a hate crime.
"I know that Mr. Rivera's involvement -- to whatever degree that might be the case -- was not based upon hatred of homosexuals," said Foy. "I know that for sure."
During the arraignments at Bronx State Supreme Court, the judge announced he received reports that family members of the defendants were making violent threats against certain individuals in the case, but he did not detail what those threats were or to whom they were directed.
Sanders Denis, the lawyer for defendant Indelfonso Mendez, confirmed violent threats were being made, but declined to give details.
"The judge was trying to tell the people in the audience today that they should refrain from making any threats, no matter how angry they feel," said Denis.