Joselo Lucero 'disheartened' in appeals court decision on lawsuit

A police officer, left, and Suffolk County Executive

A police officer, left, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, center, greet Marcelo Lucero's mother, Rosario, standing next to Marcelo's brother, Joselo, at a service in St. Francis De Sales Church to mark the first anniversary since the killing of Marcelo. (Nov. 8, 2009) Photo Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

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The brother of the Ecuadorean man attacked by seven youths and stabbed to death in Patchogue in 2008 said Tuesday he was disappointed that a federal appeals court declined to reinstate a $40 million lawsuit filed by the family against Suffolk County.

Joselo Lucero said in a statement released Tuesday that he was "disheartened" because the suit had been "intended to bring to light the abuse by Suffolk County Police Department towards Latinos. My brother's death unveiled those abuses, and I hoped that this case would force SCPD to appear in court to answer for its actions. . . . Once again, Latinos are being denied justice.

"How much longer do we have to wait for the truth to come out," Lucero said in the statement. "I will not allow my brother to have died in vain."

A county spokeswoman had acknowledged the court's decision, but offered no additional comment.

Lucero's family had appealed last year's decision by U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler to toss out the suit, which accused Suffolk County and the police department of an "indifferent and unconstitutional failure" to protect immigrants.

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The process server hired by the estate's attorneys had mistakenly served a state court building, not the county clerk as required by law, and Wexler declined to extend the time limit to fix that problem.

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In agreeing with Wexler, the three judges from the Second U.S. Circuit Court ruled estate administrator Luis Almonte had not given a "reasonable excuse for his inaction and delay" in serving papers.

While Almonte argued that it was a simple mistake by the process server, he knew by December 2011 about the problem and didn't ask for more time until almost a year later, after the case had been closed, the judicial panel wrote.

Lucero was walking with a friend in Patchogue five years ago when he was attacked by seven teens looking to assault Hispanic immigrants.

The U.S. Justice Department has called on Suffolk County police to strengthen efforts to combat hate crimes, faulting procedures and pointing to warning signs that preceded Lucero's killing.

In a September 2011 letter to Suffolk County officials, the U.S. Justice Department urged the county to revamp practices that have hurt relations with Hispanics and develop a better system to investigate misconduct complaints against police.

The letter, offering assistance to Suffolk police, came more than two years after the launch of a federal probe into the county's handling of hate crimes against Latinos, as well as community complaints in the aftermath of the Lucero killing.

One of the attackers, Jeffrey Conroy, stabbed Lucero, 37, killing him. Conroy is serving a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted by a jury of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. The other six defendants are serving sentences ranging from 5 to 8 years.

With Ellen Yan and Victor Ramos

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