In a barely audible voice, a Medford teenager stood before a Suffolk judge and recounted the events that culminated in the death of Marcelo Lucero last year as he pleaded guilty Thursday in connection with the case.
Nicholas Hausch, 18, his slight frame appearing hunched in a dark suit and blue tie, told Judge Robert W. Doyle and prosecutors how he and six other teens had set out the night of Nov. 8 determined to attack Latinos, or "beaner hopping," as the defendant called it.
In the Lucero case, Hausch pleaded guilty to first-degree gang assault and fourth-degree conspiracy. He also pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree assault as a hate crime and second-degree attempted assault as a hate crime in connection with two other attacks earlier that day.
Responding to questions from Assistant District Attorney Megan O'Donnell, Hausch detailed the confrontation with Lucero.
Hausch said the group spotted two Latino men and called them ethnic slurs.
"Surround him," Kevin Shea, one defendant, yelled after punching Lucero, Hausch said.
Hausch said he was in the outer circle and began to walk away when another defendant, Jeffrey Conroy, passed him. "He told me we had to get out of here," Hausch said.
"Jeff told us he stabbed the guy," Hausch said. At that point he said the other defendants called Conroy "an idiot," and told him to "throw away the knife."
"He said no, 'I washed it off in a puddle,' " Hausch said.
Recounting an event earlier that night, Hausch detailed chasing a Latino man and taking his hat to show off to his friends later.
Asked O'Donnell, "Now did you and Jordan Dasch or Anthony Harford take any property from that male Hispanic?"
Hausch answered, "Yes. I took his hat."
Hausch: "I guess because, just to show my friends . . . "
O'Donnell: "Is it fair to say you took that hat as a trophy?"
Prosecutors did not recommend a sentence, and Hausch - who has been out on bail for most of the year - won't be sentenced until prosecution of the other six defendants is complete. Hausch faces 5 to 25 years in prison on the top charge.
As part of his plea, Hausch agreed to continue to cooperate with authorities, including possibly testifying at the trials of his co-defendants.
Hausch's attorney, Jason Bassett of Central Islip, said he is hopeful that authorities will take into account Hausch's cooperation when he is sentenced and "the fact that he's the first person who stepped forward on this."
"Nick, from day one, at least with me, has always accepted responsibility," Bassett said. "Nick has really grown up a lot. . . . He realizes how misguided some of his ideas were."
Hausch left the courtroom with a half-dozen family members and friends. Asked for his response to the plea, Hausch looked straight ahead.
Halfway through Hausch's plea, Lucero's brother and sister walked into the courtroom. After the plea, Joselo Lucero, 35, of Patchogue, said he was surprised but happy. "Now it's one less" case, he said. Isabel Lucero, 32, arrived from Ecuador Wednesday to mark the anniversary of Lucero's death this weekend.
Kevin B. Faga, the Westchester attorney for the Lucero family, said he will file a summons with notice Friday in Riverhead to sue the seven defendants and their parents for the assault and death of Lucero. "We're suing them for assault, wrongful death and the parents for negligence," he said.
A vigil marking the anniversary of Lucero's killing will be tomorrow at 6 p.m.
The Lucero killing and hate crime charges sparked an outcry. Last month, U.S. Justice Department announced that it had launched an official investigation into allegations of discriminatory policing in Suffolk.