N.Y. man convicted in slaying of Ecuadorean
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RIVERHEAD, N.Y. -- A jury on Monday found Jeffrey Conroy guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime but acquitted him of murder in the November 2008 stabbing death of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, N.Y.
The highly publicized case drew national attention and cast a harsh light on ethnic tensions in Suffolk County. Mr. Conroy, 19, of Medford, N.Y., faces a maximum of 8-to-25 years in a state prison. .
Mr. Conroy was acquitted on the top charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime and second-degree murder. He also was convicted of first-degree gang assault and fourth-degree conspiracy for the attack on Mr. Lucero, and three counts of second-degree attempted assault as a hate crime for attacks on Mr. Lucero's friend, Angel Loja, and on Hector Sierra earlier in the evening of Nov. 8, 2008, and Octavio Cordova on Nov. 3, 2008.
Mr. Conroy's family left the courthouse immediately after the verdict.
Robert Conroy was crying, one hand to his face, as the family got into an elevator.
Sentencing was scheduled for May 26.
Prosecutors said Mr. Conroy and six other teens attacked Mr. Lucero, 37, at the end of a year-long spree of assaults on Hispanics -- an activity the youths called "beaner hopping" or "Mexican hopping." Mr. Lucero died after he was stabbed in an incident near the Patchogue train station.
The killing of Mr. Lucero stirred a potent reaction. Marches and vigils were held in Patchogue. Some critics charged that the attack stemmed from a racially divisive atmosphere fostered by Suffolk leaders such as County Executive Steve Levy.
The ensuing controversy seemed to confirm Suffolk's image as a haven of racism and intolerance -- an image forged by battles in some Suffolk communities over Latino day laborers and illegal immigration.
Already beset by charges that he had encouraged anti-Hispanic fervor with his comments about illegal immigrants, Mr. Levy defended himself and the Suffolk police department against charges the county had failed to investigate reports of crimes against Latinos.
After Mr. Lucero's death, a Hispanic man was named to head the Fifth Precinct in Patchogue, and police were given sensitivity training and seminars on investigating hate crimes.
A federal investigation was launched to look into charges that Suffolk authorities had ignored Hispanic crime victims.
First Published April 20, 2010 12:00 am