NEW YORK (CBS 2/ AP) – Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped charges against three people accused of taking part in anti-gay attacks on two men and two teens, citing a lack of evidence.
Bryan Almonte and Brian Cepeda, both 17, and Steven Carabello, 16, had been charged with robbery, gang assault and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes in the Oct. 3 attacks.
But that’s not sitting well with an openly gay member of the City Council, reports CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey.
They fled the courthouse, two of the three teens whose cases were dropped after being arrested for one of the worst hate crimes in recent memory.
“The cops should never have arrested them,” friend Richelly Martinez said.
Authorities said a loosely organized street crew known as the Latin King Goonies found out one of their recruits was gay — and when they found out, they snapped, setting off a weekend rampage. The recruit, a 17-year-old boy, was beaten and sodomized at the abandoned apartment, which they used as a hangout. The gang members then went after a 30-year-old man known throughout the Bronx neighborhood as The Queen, who they believed had had a sexual encounter with the teen, prosecutors said.
The man was burned, beaten, tortured and sodomized with a miniature baseball bat, police said.
Prosecutors said while all 11 gang members and recruits were in the apartment when the beating and sodomizing took place, they didn’t have enough evidence to prove the three did anything wrong.
“He wasn’t a gang member, didn’t know that anything was going to happen. He thought he was at a party,” said John O’Connell, the attorney for Aponte.
News of the dismissals brought tears of joy from one mom.
“Justice was done. That’s the just,” said attorney Philippe Dussek, the attorney for Cepeda.
However, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an openly gay advocate, accused prosecutors of dropping the ball.
“Those individuals will never see the inside of a courtroom and the victims in this case deserve the most aggressive prosecution and I don’t believe they’re getting it,” Quinn said.
To which one defense attorney said, “There’s doing something wrong morally, there’s also criminal responsibility for your actions.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in prepared remarks before an Oct. 4 dinner for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, called the attacks “completely unacceptable” and promised “the perpetrators of the abuse and torture in the Bronx will be spared no mercy.”
Bloomberg said he was sickened by the accusations of violence “and saddened by the anti-gay bias.”
The beatings followed a nationwide string of anti-gay attacks and teen suicides attributed to anti-gay bullying, including the beating of a patron at the Stonewall Inn, a Manhattan bar that’s been a symbol of the gay rights movement since protests over a 1969 police raid there, and the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi after his gay sexual encounter in his dorm room was broadcast online.
On Tuesday night the former suspects themselves had little to say about new found freedom, or being linked to those who would brutalize gays.
One of the defendants has already been indicted for, among other things, gang assault. The remaining suspects who were here will appear in court over the next few days.
The remaining eight are all facing assault and robbery charges. Hate crimes are expected to be filed at a future date.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)