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Lawyers: Teens charged in Oceanside fatal stabbing case unaware of knife

Some of the seven teens charged with gang assault in the Oceanside fatal stabbing of Khaseen Morris appeared Tuesday in a Mineola court. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Lawyers for some of the teenagers facing gang assault charges after a fight ended in an Oceanside High School senior's stabbing death said Tuesday their clients didn't know anyone had brought a knife to the scene.

Some of the seven Long Beach youths who are facing second-degree gang assault charges in connection with the Sept. 16 brawl appeared in Mineola court Tuesday after making bail following their arraignments Saturday.

A grand jury already has indicted Lido Beach resident Tyler Flach, 18, on a second-degree murder charge and a weapon offense for the fatal stabbing of Khaseen Morris, 16.

Flach, who has maintained his innocence, is in jail without bail and has yet to be arraigned on what remains a sealed indictment.

Those facing the felony assault charges include two 16-year-old males whom police haven't named, along with defendants Haakim Mechan, 19; Marquis Stephens Jr. and Javonte Neals, both 18; and Taj Woodruff and Sean Merritt, both 17.

Attorney David Haber, who was appointed Tuesday to represent Mechan, said after court his client didn't know "anybody was bringing a weapon or had any intention to use a weapon against the deceased."

Woodruff's attorney, Donald Rollock, echoed Haber's comment, saying his client had "absolutely no knowledge" of anybody bringing a knife to the scene.

"This was a simple fight escalated by one individual who took things way too far," Rollock said.

Lawrence Carrà, Neals' attorney, said: "They went for a fistfight and it resulted in the possibility of facing 15 years in jail, for nothing that they did."

Stephens' attorney, William Kephart, said after court that no indictments had been handed up naming his client or any of the others arraigned Saturday.

He added that his client, a Long Beach High School graduate, "had no weapons" and "had nothing to do with any involvement with the deceased."

Attorney Dennis Lemke, who represents Merritt, confirmed that his client hadn't been indicted and said he was a Long Beach High student with "good grades" and no prior arrests.

Police have alleged the defendants were active participants in the attack at a Brower Avenue strip mall in Oceanside, which also left a 17-year-old male with a broken arm and a head injury.

Police previously said Flach was among a group of males who charged at Morris and his group of friends and a melee ensued in which Flach plunged a knife into Morris' chest, piercing his heart.

The violence broke out after Morris went to the location knowing that the ex-boyfriend of a girl he was friendly with wanted to confront him, according to police. Morris' family said he texted the ex-boyfriend to say he wasn't dating the girl but had walked her home from a party.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said Tuesday in an interview following the court appearances that she wouldn't comment on the evidence as prosecutors continue looking at video of the brawl and talking to witnesses.

"When we have the opportunity to share more after indictments are filed, we will … It's not smart for us to comment on how we think the case will go until a grand jury has heard all the evidence."

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