With his friend Jeffrey Conroy sitting only a few feet away, one of the four teenagers who admitted involvement in the death of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero testified Monday at Conroy's trial in Riverhead about a string of attacks aimed at Hispanic men.
Speaking calmly at Conroy's murder and manslaughter trial in Suffolk County Court, Nicholas Hausch, 18, of Medford, described five incidents within 24 hours over two nights in which he and friends attacked Latinos - culminating in the stabbing death of Lucero, 37, of Patchogue, on Nov. 8, 2008.
During more than two hours of testimony, Hausch contradicted the testimony of two men who said they were attacked before Lucero was killed. Hausch also contradicted his own testimony at least once, and under cross-examination said he pleaded guilty to crimes he did not commit.
Conroy, 19, of Medford, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, both as hate crimes. Prosecutors say he, Hausch and five other teens confronted Lucero before Conroy stabbed him to death.
Conroy is the only one of the seven teens charged with murder and manslaughter.
Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Megan O'Donnell, Hausch said he and Conroy fled after a confrontation with Lucero and his friend, Angel Loja, 37, of Patchogue, near the Patchogue train station.
"He told me he stabbed him," Hausch testified. He said he saw Conroy holding a bloodstained knife.
"We were telling him to throw it," Hausch said. "He said he washed it off in a puddle.
"Someone said, 'Imagine if we get away with this.' I said we wouldn't."
Hausch's testimony Monday came after he pleaded guilty in November to first-degree gang assault and fourth-degree conspiracy. He also pleaded guilty to second-degree assault as a hate crime and second-degree attempted assault as a hate crime in connection with two other attacks earlier on Nov. 8, 2008.
Hausch, who agreed to testify against Conroy and two other teens as part of his plea, faces a sentence of 5 to 25 years in prison. Three other teens also pleaded guilty to the same charges and agreed to testify. Two defendants await trial.
Hausch's testimony differed from that of Loja, who testified last week that the teens surrounded Lucero, then punched and kicked him.
Under questioning from Conroy's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, Hausch said the teens gathered in a semicircle, and he said Lucero was not punched or kicked. Hausch said he did not see the stabbing.
At one point, Hausch told Keahon no one demanded money from Lucero. Then, Hausch said another teen, Kevin Shea, 18, of Medford, had stuck his hand in his pocket as if he was armed and told Lucero, "Give me your money, I have a gun."
Shea has pleaded guilty to gang assault and other charges.
Hausch said he and four of the other teens, including Conroy, chased another Patchogue man, Hector Sierra, 57, but did not punch or kick him. Sierra has testified the teens punched and kicked him.
Pressed by Keahon about his guilty plea, Hausch said he did not participate in assaults on Loja and Sierra before the attack on Lucero - even though the Loja and Sierra incidents were included in the plea.
"Were you guilty of that crime?" Keahon asked Hausch of the Loja attack.
After a long pause, Hausch said, "No ... I'm not guilty."
Referring to the earlier assault on Sierra, Keahon asked, "You did not have to plead guilty to that crime?"
"No," Hausch said after another pause.
When Keahon asked why he pleaded guilty, Hausch said, "I don't know."
"It's when you look for Hispanics to beat up," he said.
He said he and two other teens, including Jordan Dasch, 19, of Medford, who also has pleaded guilty in connection with Lucero's death, had picked fights with Hispanic men in Patchogue shortly after midnight on Nov. 8, 2008.
After a verbal confrontation with two men, Hausch said he, Dasch and the other boy taunted a man sitting on a porch. When the man ran at them, Hausch said, he and Dasch shot at the man with a BB gun.
Hausch said he threw the gun over a fence when police arrived, but none of the boys was arrested, he said.
The following night, hours before Lucero was killed, Hausch said he, Dasch and Hartford attacked a man on Route 112 as they returned from purchasing marijuana. Hartford, 18, of Medford, faces gang assault and other charges in connection with Lucero's death.
Hausch said after he, Dasch and Hartford punched and kicked the man, he stole the man's NASCAR baseball cap. "I took it as a trophy," he said.
Police have testified a NASCAR cap was found in Dasch's sport utility vehicle after Lucero's death.