The Nassau district attorney's office handed over grand jury testimony Wednesday to lawyers for five of the Long Beach teenagers facing second-degree gang assault charges following an afterschool brawl that turned deadly with the stabbing of an Oceanside High School senior.
The disclosures came as the teenagers appeared in Nassau County Court for a routine conference while the family of slaying victim Khaseen Morris, 16, watched from a row on the other side of the Mineola courtroom.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Howard Sturim conferred privately at the bench with attorneys involved in the case but didn’t go on the record with any public proceedings.
Attorneys for some of the defendants said later that the prosecution handed over CDs with the grand jury testimony of all witnesses except one — a witness whose testimony is the subject of negotiations.
The defendants in court Wednesday were: Haakim Mechan, 19; Sean Merritt, Javonte Neals and Marquis Stephens Jr., all 18, and Taj Woodruff, 17.
An indictment charges the five — and two teens who were 16 at the time — with the felony gang assault offense in connection with the Sept. 16 attack on Morris.
Each also faces a misdemeanor assault charge after prosecutors said they injured a 17-year-old male who suffered a broken arm and head injury in the fight. The teenagers have all pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Morris died after Tyler Flach, 19, of Lido Beach, stabbed him in the heart during the fight at an Oceanside strip mall.
Flach, who is due in court Thursday for a conference, has pleaded not guilty to murder, gang assault and weapon charges.
Attorney William Kephart, who represents Stephens, said after court Wednesday that the grand testimony handed over was essentially the “meat and potatoes” or the “main pieces of evidence.”
“In a case with multiple people, now we can attach details specifically to actions of each individual defendant” as alleged by witnesses, he added.
The prosecution withheld the grand jury testimony of one witness, according to Kephart, who said negotiations are ongoing regarding the disclosure of that evidence.
“The district attorney, at this point, wants to protect one of their witnesses. And at the same time, we want to accomplish discovery," he said. "So this negotiation could achieve both goals."
Attorney Lawrence Carrà, who represents Neals, said it’s possible the testimony of the “additional significant witness” could be disclosed under an agreement whereby defense attorneys would have to keep that person’s identity confidential after the testimony was handed over.
Carrà also said that it appeared the prosecution was focusing on Flach’s case first.
Lawyers for the other defendants declined to comment or left court without commenting.
Prosecutors declined to comment Wednesday.
Authorities have alleged Flach and his friends charged at Morris and his friends before Flach fatally wounded Morris.
The violence broke out after Morris went to the Brower Avenue location knowing the ex-boyfriend of a girl he'd befriended wanted to confront him, according to police.
Morris had texted the ex-boyfriend to say he wasn't dating the girl, but had walked her home from a party, according to the victim's family.
The victim’s sister Keyanna Morris, 30, said Wednesday when she heard grand jury testimony had been handed over that it was a “good sign” the case is moving along.
“We know it’s going to be a long process until trial," Morris said. "As usual … we’re just going to stick it out and stay strong and continue to show support for my brother.”