Accused driver in Lucero case might plead guilty

Jordan Dasch arrives in court in Riverhead. (Jan. Jordan Dasch arrives in court in Riverhead. (Jan. 28, 2009) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Jordan Dasch - the teenager prosecutors say drove the seven high school students charged in the hate killing of an Ecuadorean immigrant in Patchogue - might plead guilty in State Supreme Court in Riverhead Thursday, according to prosecutors and his defense attorney.

Dasch, 19, of Medford, would become the fourth teenager to admit guilt in the Nov. 8, 2008, attack that killed Marcelo Lucero, and his plea would come just days before the first trial in the case is set to begin.

"It's a possibility," said Dasch's defense attorney, Michael Gajdos, of a plea. "Nothing is set in stone."

Gajdos said the district attorney's office continued to offer no deals and he was in discussions with Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle on a plea.

Assistant District Attorney Megan O'Donnell said a plea was a "possibility, but obviously until we get there and the details are worked out with the judge, we're not going to know for sure."

Dasch is one of seven former Patchogue-Medford High School students charged with first-degree gang assault and fourth-degree conspiracy in the attack prosecutors say was the culmination of a yearlong crime spree against Latinos.

On Monday prosecutors moved to request a joint trial with separate juries for Dasch and Jeffrey Conroy - the only teen charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, both as hate crimes. Authorities say Conroy, 19, of Medford, fatally stabbed Lucero after the other teens surrounded and taunted him and a companion.

Jury selection for Conroy is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

On Friday, Kevin Shea, 18, of Medford pleaded guilty to the top charge of first-degree gang assault, among other charges. Doyle said he would sentence Shea to no more than 10 years in prison. The other defendants to plead guilty - Nicholas Hausch, 18, of Medford, and Jose Pacheco, 19, of East Patchogue - face five to 25 years in prison.

The promise of a maximum 10-year sentence drew the ire of Lucero's brother, Joselo Lucero. District Attorney Thomas J. Spota vowed to seek a "substantially longer" sentence.

"If nobody died, they could have had no sentence at all," Joselo Lucero said Tuesday. "That's the wrong message."

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