The last of seven defendants from Long Beach indicted on gang assault charges after Oceanside High School senior Khaseen Morris' slaying pleaded guilty Thursday, settling all the charges in the case two days after Tyler Flach's murder conviction.
Haakim Mechan, 22, admitted in Nassau County Court in Mineola to a felony charge of attempted gang assault in the second degree and misdemeanor assault in a plea deal that will send him to prison for 3 years.
A jury Tuesday convicted Flach, 21, of Lido Beach, of charges including second-degree murder and first-degree gang assault in the stabbing death of Morris, 16.
It happened during a prearranged after-school fight in an Oceanside strip mall parking lot on Sept. 16, 2019.
Morris’ family expressed relief following Mechan's plea, after returning to the same courtroom where Flach's trial was held to see the last defendant in the case with outstanding charges admit responsibility.
“We can’t get back our loss, but it’s a little easier to breathe now,” Morris’ sister, Keyanna Morris, 33, told Newsday.
“Even though we wish they all could go away forever, this is something,” she added of Mechan’s plea.
The victim’s father, Bryan Morris, 51, said the family is beginning to heal and move forward.
“It still doesn’t bring him back,” added Morris’ mother, AnnMarie Morris, 51. “But it’s a start.”
Mechan was among the Long Beach youths who fought on Flach’s side in the brawl and whom a grand jury indicted on felony second-degree gang assault and misdemeanor assault charges in the stabbing's aftermath.
So was Mechan’s brother, Taj Woodruff, 20, who became a cooperating prosecution witness during Flach's murder trial after pleading guilty to the assault charges in a sealed court proceeding.
Woodruff testified he heard Flach say "I cut someone" after Flach and their group of friends left the fight.
Woodruff acknowledged while testifying he'll be able to withdraw his felony plea and only a misdemeanor conviction will remain if prosecutors decide he testified truthfully. His deal includes a no-jail promise and prosecutors will recommend that a judge seal his criminal record.
Besides Woodruff, two others in the group of Flach’s friends who brawled with Morris and his friends cut cooperation deals with prosecutors, sources previously told Newsday.
Prosecutors didn't call those other two cooperators, whom police said were 16 at the time of their arrests, to testify at Flach’s trial.
Nassau District Attorney's Office spokesman Brendan Brosh confirmed after Mechan's plea that all seven of those indicted along with Flach now have pleaded guilty.
He declined to comment specifically on the cases of the two defendants, whom Newsday sources identified as non-testifying cooperators.
Three of Flach’s friends, Marquis Stephens Jr., 21, Javonte Neals, 21, and Sean Merritt, 20, are serving 1-year sentences at Nassau’s jail after pleading guilty to the assault charges. Their criminal records also were sealed after a judge granted them youthful offender status.
The fight was sparked by friction with the ex-boyfriend of a girl whom Morris walked home from a party, according to testimony at Flach’s trial.
The ex-boyfriend was one of the cooperators who didn't testify, according to Newsday sources.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Howard Sturim said Thursday he would accept the deal the prosecution and defense negotiated in Mechan’s case because the families of Morris and Aaron Singh, who suffered a broken arm in the fight at age 17, agreed to the terms.
“There’s no winners here. … He wanted to take responsibility,” Mechan’s attorney, Aaron Wallenstein, said after his client’s plea.
“He’s happy to put it behind him. He’s sad about what happened,” he added.
The judge set Mechan’s sentencing for Dec. 14, the same day as Flach's sentencing.
“The last three years have been extraordinarily difficult for the Morris family and we stand with them as they remember Khaseen. We’ll have more to say at sentencing on December 14,” Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly said in a statement Thursday.