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Jury begins deliberating in gang trial

Leaders of the MS-13 gang Heriberto Martinez, left,

Leaders of the MS-13 gang Heriberto Martinez, left, and Carlos Ortega, right, are scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Central Islip. Credit: Handout

Jury deliberations began late Wednesday morning after five weeks of testimony in the case of two members of the MS-13 street gang charged in connection with five killings on Long Island and in Queens.

The defendants, Heriberto Martinez, 25, of Far Rockaway, and Carlos Ortega, 23, of Brentwood, are accused of committing their crimes to keep or further their positions in the gang.

Federal prosecutors say the gang's violent code required the killings, because it calls for the murder of rival gang members or anyone who shows disrespect toward MS-13.

Eastern District Assistant United States Attorney John Durham noted in his final remarks in federal court in Central Islip that the spree of five killings in February and March of 2010 happened almost exactly three years ago.

Defense attorneys maintain several fellow gang members falsely testified against their clients in return for lighter sentences for their own crimes.

Further, defense attorneys maintain that signed confessions to the killings obtained from Martinez and Ortega by FBI agents and New York City and Nassau and Suffolk county detectives were not credible because they were not recorded.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco gave jurors legal instructions before they began deliberating.

Among the first requests of the anonymous jury of six men and six women was for copies of Ortega's and Martinez's confessions.

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