Last teen in Lucero case to plead guilty to gang assault

Anthony Hartford, 17, of Medford appears in court Anthony Hartford, 17, of Medford appears in court in Riverhead on Jan. 28, 2009, to answer charges in connection with the death of Marcelo Lucero in 2008 in Patchogue. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Anthony Hartford, the last teenager still facing trial in connection with the hate-crime stabbing death of Marcelo Lucero, is set to plead guilty Wednesday for his role in the 2008 attack on the Ecuadorean immigrant, his attorney said Tuesday.

With Hartford's guilty plea, to take place in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, all seven teens charged in the case will have pleaded guilty or been convicted in the attack on Lucero, 37, of Patchogue.

The expected guilty plea by Hartford, 18, of Medford, would come one week after Jeffrey Conroy was sentenced to the maximum 25 years in prison for fatally stabbing Lucero on Nov. 8, 2008, near the Patchogue train station.

Conroy, 19, of Medford, was convicted in April of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, gang assault, conspiracy and other charges. He was the first person convicted of a hate crime in Suffolk County in a case in which a person died, according to District Attorney Thomas Spota's office.

Hartford - like five other teens who admitted their roles in connection with the attack - will plead guilty to first-degree gang assault, attorney Laurence Silverman of Dix Hills said.

He will be promised a sentence of no more than 10 years in prison, Silverman said. Hartford is being held on $600,000 bond or $275,000 cash bail in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility.

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"Anthony has put a huge dent in his life by getting involved with these types of people," Silverman said, referring to the other teenagers involved in the attack, then all students at Patchogue-Medford High School.

He added that Hartford has become more introspective since his arrest minutes after Lucero's stabbing.

Spota Tuesday could not confirm that Hartford will enter a guilty plea during his scheduled court appearance.

Hartford's hearing Wednesday before State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle may be postponed because of the funeral of Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Weeks, who died last week, Silverman and Spota said.

Prosecutors said Conroy, Hartford and five other teens attacked Lucero in an ongoing spree of assaults targeting Hispanic men.

The case raised questions concerning public comments about illegal immigration made by County Executive Steve Levy and other public officials, with some Latino advocates saying Levy helped foster an anti-Hispanic atmosphere. Levy, who is running for governor, has denied the allegation and last week applauded the sentence Conroy received.

Silverman said Hartford and the other teens selected their victims because they believed they were not legal residents.

"I don't think it is anti-Hispanic bias. It's certainly anti-illegal bias," Silverman said. "All these kids have Hispanic friends."

Conroy was transferred Friday to Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill to begin his prison sentence. Eventually he will be moved to a maximum-security prison.

The five other teens accused of attacking Lucero already have pleaded guilty to first-degree gang assault - the top charge against them - and fourth-degree conspiracy. All are awaiting sentencing.

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They are Jordan Dasch, 19, of Medford; Nicholas Hausch, 18, of Medford; Christopher Overton, 17, of East Patchogue; Jose Pacheco, 19, of East Patchogue; and Kevin Shea, 18, of Medford.

Hausch and Pacheco are expected to receive sentences of 5 to 25 years in prison. Dasch and Shea were promised no more than 10 years in prison. Overton, who pleaded guilty May 25, is expected to receive no more than 7 years in prison.

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