Jeffrey Conroy, the white Long Island teenager accused of killing an Ecuadorean immigrant during a night of "beaner hopping," was convicted of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime yesterday in State Supreme Court. The prosecution had been hoping for a guilty verdict for the most serious charge, second-degree murder as a hate crime, which would give the judge the option of sentencing Conroy to life in prison. With a guilty first-degree manslaughter conviction Conroy now faces a minimum of eight years to a maximum of 25 years of time with the Aryan Brotherhood behind bars. In addition to the manslaughter charge, Conroy was convicted of attempted assault against three other area Latinos, one of them Lucero's friend who had been with him that night.
Conroy and six other teens from the Patchogue, New York area in eastern Long Island are alleged to have started the night out by looking to "beat up some Mexicans." Since the fatal stabbing of Marcelo Lucero on November 8, 2008 in a train station parking lot tensions in the community have been high. A meeting at Patchogue-Medford High School, the school that that the teens attended, turned into a "blame everyone but me" chorus during which a reporter for Newsday was forcibly removed from the auditorium. In the weeks after the crime some pointed to the Suffolk Police Department for not doing enough about hate crimes committed against Latinos in the area (the allegations have led to a DOJ investigation of the department). Some pointed to elected officials who had made anti-immigrant statements. Others blamed all the negative media attention on, well, the media. In summation, there was plenty of blame to go around that everyone seemed to get some of it (deservedly or not).
But what I don't get is why Conroy was only convicted of manslaughter. Now, I was not on the jury nor was I there during the proceedings, but it seems to me that if you plunge a knife into someone's chest you are looking to kill them. Stab someone in the arm or the leg and you might be able to get away with the argument, "I was just trying to hurt them." But when you stick a knife forcefully into someone's chest, that tells me you mean to kill that person.
Those with Conroy that night have either pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the assault or have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. Those who have pleaded guilty are: Nicholas Hausch (Facebook?), Jose Pacheco (Facebook?), Kevin Shea, and Jordan Dasch (Facebook?). Chris Overton, who was out on bail for a felony burglary conviction in which another person was killed, and Anthony Hartford have pleaded not guilty to charges connected to the assault of Lucero.
While it was not a second-degree murder conviction, it is still good that Conroy will be behind bars for the better part of a decade at the least. Someone who gets a swastika tattoo "as a joke," goes "beaner hopping" and then kills an innocent person has no place in this society and hopefully Justice Robert W. Doyle gives Conroy the maximum sentence. If he does not, it will be an insult to Marcelo Lucero specifically and Latinos in the area more generally.
Photo - Conroy (NBC New York), Lucero's brother and mother at the sight of Lucero's death (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)