Six arraigned in big courthouse brawl

The arraignment of murder suspect Pedro Merchant, 20, was disrupted by a courtroom melee that included the brief shutdown of First District Court in Hempstead on Friday. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Sept. 20, 2013) 

Under heavy security, six people were arraigned Saturday on rioting and criminal contempt charges -- a day after police arrested them for brawling at a Hempstead courthouse.

The accused had engaged in "tumultuous and violent conduct" at the end of a murder suspect's arraignment Friday in First District Court, according to court papers.

The fighting by the suspect's supporters, and friends and relatives of the victim spilled from the courtroom into the hallway and then to the streets outside the courthouse at 99 Main St.


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Arraigned Saturday were: Aaron Munlin, 20, of Hempstead; Abdul Rahim Robinson, 22, of West Hempstead; Jerry Merchant, 50, of Hempstead; Louis Merchant, 51, of Philadelphia; Shapeace Goodwine, 22, of Roosevelt; and Terry Green, 28, of Elmont.

More than three dozen court and law enforcement officers were stationed in and immediately outside the courthouse as Judge Helen Voutsinas ordered Munlin held on $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash bail; Goodwine and Green on $100,000 bond or $50,000 bail; Robinson on $200,000 bond or $100,000 bail; and Louis Merchant on $500,000 bond or $250,000 bail. Jerry Merchant was ordered held without bail.

The top charge filed against each is first-degree rioting, a felony.

At the time of Friday's fracas, about 100 people were in the courtroom with nothing separating the groups: friends and relatives of the shooting victim, James Quinones-Wright, 17, of Hempstead; and supporters of the suspect, Pedro Merchant, 20, of North Valley Stream.

Merchant was arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree murder in the Sept. 11 shooting in Hempstead.

Merchant pleaded not guilty Friday and as he was led away by court officers, someone shouted, "I love you, Pedro!"

The outburst triggered more shouting. Moments later, people began throwing punches. Two people were taken to a hospital, and treated and released.

Woodbury attorney Anthony Colleluori, who represents Munlin and Robinson in the riot case, said his clients are related to Quinones-Wright.

"Their cousin was killed and they came to court to seek justice, but instead they experienced more violence," Colleluori said.

The defendants are due back in court Tuesday.

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