8 gang suspects arraigned in NYC anti-gay attack

NEW YORK (AP) - October 10, 2010

Be advised of graphic description of attack and language used in this article.

The charges include robbery, assault, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes. The defendants didn't enter pleas, and police were looking for a ninth suspect, who had been expected to turn himself in but didn't show up.

The nine members of the Latin King Goonies gang earlier this month heard a rumor one of their teenage recruits was gay and then found the teen, stripped him, beat him and sodomized him with a plunger handle until he confessed to having had sex with a man, police say. The gang members then found a second teen they suspected was gay and tortured him and the man, police say.

The gang members found the man by inviting him to a house, telling him they were having a party, police say. When he arrived, they burned, beat and tortured him for hours and sodomized him with a miniature baseball bat, police say.

The suspects arraigned Sunday were identified as Ildefonzo Mendez, 23; Elmer Confresi, 23; David Rivera, 21; Steven Caraballo, Denis Peitars, Nelson Falu and Bryan Almonte, all 17; and Brian Cepeda, 16.

Bronx Criminal Court Judge Harold Adler set bail for Peitars and Caraballo at $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash; the other six were held without bail.

Two attorneys, Paul Horowitz and Fred Bittlingmeyer, represented the eight at the hearing but didn't expect to represent all of them through the legal process.

Bittlingmeyer, representing Peitars, said his client only punched one of the complainants after the other defendants said they "were going to find out who the men are in this room and who the fags are in this room."

Bittlingmeyer said if Peitars didn't throw a punch he would have been attacked himself. He also denied it was a scheme by a gang, describing it as people getting together on a Sunday night and "one individual let it get out of hand."

Horowitz, representing Caraballo, said his client had not previously been in trouble with the law and "denies the allegations." He said the only offense of which Caraballo was accused was hitting one of the complainants with his fist.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was sickened by the accusations of violence "and saddened by the anti-gay bias." The beatings, which occurred Oct. 3 in the Bronx, followed a string of anti-gay attacks and teen suicides attributed to anti-gay bullying that have led to nationwide soul-searching.

About a week ago, a patron at the Stonewall Inn, a Manhattan bar that's been a symbol of the gay rights movement since protests over a 1969 police raid there, was beaten in an anti-gay attack, prosecutors said.

On Sept. 22, a New Jersey university student killed himself after his gay sexual encounter in his dorm room was broadcast online. Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, 18, jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River.

Days after the body of Clementi, a promising violinist, was recovered, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for a 13-year-old central California boy, Seth Walsh, who hanged himself after enduring taunts from classmates about being gay.

Gay men and women live openly in the largely Hispanic neighborhood where the Oct. 3 beatings took place, Morris Heights, and while residents were disturbed by some past violent behavior blamed on the defendants, some said they hadn't previously targeted homosexuals.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay, and other elected officials went to the empty brick town house where the attacks occurred and passed out leaflets.

"People were very, very clear that they wanted it to be known that the acts of these individuals do not represent their neighborhood," Quinn said. "They were as stunned as anyone that something so violent, so premeditated ... could happen here."

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