Three alleged MS-13 gang members were ordered held without bail Friday after pleading not guilty to brutally raping a teenage girl in the woods near a Brentwood golf course late last month.
Jose Cornejo, 17, Joel Escobar, 17, and Bryan Larios, 18, all of Brentwood, have been under arrest since early last Saturday in what District Attorney Thomas Spota called one of the worst attacks he has seen.
"This is one of the most brutal, heinous crimes that I have seen in a long, long time," Spota said at a news conference after the arraignments on the grand jury indictment. "These are vicious young men."
He called them "confirmed" members of MS-13, a Salvadoran street gang that has proliferated on Long Island, in other U.S. cities and in El Salvador.
Spota said the 16-year-old victim "is so lucky, quite frankly, that she's alive" after the attack amid thornbushes. She had some 200 cuts over her body.
Prosecutors said Cornejo and Escobar took turns raping the victim May 29 while Larios stood watch outside the woods. Larios' attorney, Christopher Gioe of Hauppauge, said his client had nothing to do with the attack.
"Mr. Larios denies any involvement whatsoever in the crime that was committed against the victim, or that he was even present when she was raped," Gioe said.
Attorneys for the other alleged assailants declined to comment. Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn in Riverhead ordered the three held without bail on rape, kidnapping and robbery charges.
The attack took place after the three alleged gang members confronted the girl and a male friend outside Brentwood East Elementary School about 6 p.m. May 29, prosecutors said.
After robbing and beating the friend, they forced the girl to walk about a half-mile to the Brentwood Country Club, where Cornejo and Escobar took turns raping her, prosecutors said.
The girl, later discovered by golfers about 8 p.m., was bloodied and wearing only her socks, prosecutors said.
The victim gave "very accurate descriptions" of the alleged attackers, who were soon arrested, Spota said. Cornejo, for instance, was identified by an unusual tattoo on his chin depicting a skull with flames coming out of the bottom, prosecutors said.
The victim apparently did not know the assailants before the attack, prosecutors said.