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Alleged gang member pleads guilty in fatal teen stabbing

Matthew Martinez leaves Nassau Police Headquarters in Mineola

Matthew Martinez leaves Nassau Police Headquarters in Mineola in 2018. Credit: Howard Schnapp

An alleged gang member who fatally stabbed another teenager outside a New Cassel house party in the summer of 2018 pleaded guilty to manslaughter Monday during a virtual court hearing.

Police arrested Matthew Martinez, then 16, about two weeks after Jordan Harris, also 16, died after suffering stab wounds in a July brawl outside a gathering that drew about 100 people after it was publicized on social media, authorities said previously.

A grand jury later indicted Martinez, a Selden resident who now is 18, on second-degree murder, felony gang assault and weapons charges.

On Monday, State Supreme Court Justice Angelo Delligatti said he planned to sentence Martinez next month to 19 years in prison under a plea bargain that the prosecution and defense negotiated.

Authorities agreed to lower the murder charge to first-degree manslaughter and drop the other counts.

Martinez, a reputed Crips gang member, had previous beefs with Harris before the deadly July 5 encounter, Nassau prosecutor Martin Meaney said at Martinez's initial arraignment.

On Monday, the prosecutor questioned Martinez as the defendant admitted to manslaughter while taking part in the hearing through a video conference hookup at Nassau's jail.

"Mr. Harris died because you stabbed him, sir?" Meaney asked.

"Yes," replied Martinez, who wore an orange inmate uniform and had a face mask lowered to his chin.

Police have said Harris, who lived in Uniondale, went to the July 2018 event with friends before partygoers came out of the home and words were exchanged.

Then a fistfight started, gunshots rang out and Harris suffered stab wounds in the melee at about 1 a.m. by the corner of Costar Street and Roman Avenue before he later was pronounced dead at a hospital, authorities said.

A 19-year-old also was injured in the fight but police said hours later that he was in stable condition.

Police alleged in court records after Harris' death that Martinez stabbed him "while aided by at least four to five others." But prosecutors said Monday there had been no other arrests in the attack on the 16-year-old and the case is now closed.

"This defendant brutally stabbed a 16-year-old multiple times in the middle of the street," Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. "Jordan Harris had his whole life in front of him and we extend our deep condolences to his family and friends. This kind of horrific violence will never be tolerated in Nassau County."

Martinez's attorney, Christian Alfaya, didn't immediately comment after Monday's hearing.

But the victim's mother, Maria DePass-Harris, said in a phone interview after the virtual proceeding that Martinez deserves to be behind bars. She said she was getting through her grief "one day at a time" and with "lots of prayers."

DePass-Harris, 42, described her son as a stern and strong young man who was the youngest of three brothers, played football, and was going into his junior year of high school at the time of his killing.

"I'm glad they caught him," she said of Martinez. "... I am definitely thankful that he's in jail but like I said it doesn't bring my baby back."

The judge plans to sentence Martinez on Dec. 16.

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