LatinoJustice PRLDEF supports Suffolk County DA in new indictments

January 28, 2009
Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications (212) 739-7513

LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s efforts in getting state and federal agencies to investigate hate crimes against Latinos in Suffolk County have resulted in additional charges against the alleged killers of Marcelo Lucero.

The Suffolk County DA announced today that the Patchogue-Medford High School students accused of taking part in a fatal, racially motivated attack on the Ecuadorean immigrant will face new charges. Defense lawyers said the charges involve incidents predating Lucero's death.

Since the Nov. 9 death, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has met with the district attorney and several U.S. Department of Justice lawyers encouraging them to investigate several other incidents. LatinoJustice PRLDEF has received numerous accounts of attacks against Latinos.

Four of the seven teenagers accused in the incident planned to surrender today. Three others arrested in the incident are still in jail.

“The scope of these indictments reflects the fact that crimes against Latinos are a common practice in Suffolk County, one that has been allowed to flourish by the failure of local law enforcement to properly investigate them,” said Foster Maer, a LatinoJustice Senior Attorney. “These teenagers thought that they were immune from prosecution as long as they were attacking Latinos. That perception has now been changed, we hope, by these actions of the District Attorney.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a formal investigation into LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s allegations that hate crimes in Suffolk County were systematically mishandled by county law enforcement.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF had requested that the DOJ look into the actions of police after the murder of Lucero on November 8.

The DOJ, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District have opened a joint inquiry into Suffolk County law enforcement’s handling of hate crimes.

According Suffolk County police, only one hate crime against Latinos was reported in 2007. This report strongly conflicts with the FBI report of a 40% rise in hate crimes against Latinos across the country since 2004.

On November 8, Marcelo Lucero was attacked and killed in Patchogue by a group of men yelling racial epithets. After being contacted by the community and receiving many reports of similar attacks against Latinos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF submitted an 11-page memo to the Justice Department outlining what it described as a systematic failure by police in Suffolk County to properly investigate and prosecute hate crimes against Latinos.

Our memo charged that “an epidemic of hate crimes against Latinos had erupted in Suffolk County."

LatinoJustice PRLDEF has also made similar allegations to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The attack against Lucero occurred only a few miles from Farmingville which first gained attention when two men abducted a pair of Mexican day laborers and tried to beat them to death. Five students later burned down the house of another Latino family, whose sleeping occupants barely escaped.

Hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise across the United States.

In 2007, local police reported to the FBI that there were 830 victims of anti-Hispanic crimes in 595 incidents around the nation. Both of these numbers represent increases over the previous year and surpass previous highs dating back to when annual reports were first mandated by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. In 2007, Hispanics comprised 61.7 percent of victims of crimes motivated by a bias toward the victims’ ethnicity or national origin. In 2004, the comparable figure was 51.5 percent.

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