Jeffrey Conroy has a strong gut reaction to the now-famous photograph of himself, handcuffed and walking ramrod-straight in his white jumpsuit, his ice-blue eyes staring straight ahead.

"That's not me," said the 19-year-old Medford man in his first interview since he was arrested in November 2008 on charges that he stabbed and killed Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero, 37, of Patchogue, after, prosecutors say, he and six other teens went on a mission to beat up Hispanics.

"I am not a racist. I am not a violent person. I am not a white supremacist," said Conroy, who has a swastika tattoo on one thigh that he said he got "stupidly" on a dare. "People made a judgment about me."

Last week, a Suffolk County jury convicted Conroy of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime in Lucero's death, and second-degree attempted assault as a hate crime in attacks on three other Hispanic men. He faces 8 to 25 years in prison when State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle sentences him May 26.

His lawyer, William Keahon of Hauppauge, would not let him answer questions about the night of the crime - details about which Conroy testified in some detail during his monthlong trial. Keahon says Conroy plans to appeal his conviction.

The former athlete spoke instead about his upbringing in Medford, his feelings about minorities, and what he says are feelings of sympathy for Lucero's family.

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"I'm sorry for what happened to them," said Conroy, who took the stand and denied he had stabbed Lucero, saying another teenager was the killer. "I wish he wasn't dead."

Jurors said after the verdict that they did not find Conroy's testimony believable, though they also did not believe that he intended to kill Lucero.

 

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