NY teens accused of hate crime face new charges

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Seven teenagers already accused in the racially motivated stabbing death of an Ecuadorean immigrant were charged Wednesday with taking part in attacks on eight other Hispanics over 14 months.

Five of the Long Island teens pleaded not guilty to assault, gang assault, attempted robbery and other crimes. The two others will be arraigned next week because their attorneys had scheduling conflicts.

All seven previously pleaded not guilty to hate crime and other charges related to the death of Marcelo Lucero, a 37-year-old dry cleaning worker. The 17-year-old accused of plunging a knife into Lucero's chest has been charged with murder as a hate crime.

The seven teens are being charged as adults.

Some of the new charges stem from a community meeting where victims said they were knocked off bicycles, punched in laundry facilities and attacked while walking down the street, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said the attackers often used racial slurs and went after the same individuals multiple times on different occasions.

The teens, all Patchogue-Medford High School students, reportedly have told authorities that targeting Hispanics for abuse was a regular activity.

One of them, 17-year-old Anthony Hartford, told police, "I don't go out doing this very often, maybe once a week," according to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Attorneys did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the latest charges, but have previously said their clients are innocent.

The November killing of Lucero attracted international attention and prompted a U.S. Justice Department investigation of hate crime allegations on Long Island. The department also was reviewing whether to begin a formal investigation on how local police respond to bias incidents.

Immigrants in Long Island have said they are often harassed but don't tell police because they fear they'll be deported. Lucero's immigration status at the time he was killed is not clear.

In 2003, a Mexican family's home in Farmingville - about 15 miles from Patchogue - was destroyed when teenagers tossed fireworks through a window on the Fourth of July.

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