The parents of a Bronx teen stabbed to death by a machete-wielding mob sat stoically as his accused killers appeared in court Monday, and a defense lawyer compared the case to that of the Central Park Five.
Leandra Feliz and Lisandro Guzman watched as seven of the men charged in their 15-year-old son’s murder walked one after the other into Bronx Supreme Court in handcuffs, shackles and beige prison outfits.
Lesandro Guzman-Feliz was dragged out of a Fordham Heights bodega on June 20 and butchered by members of the Trinitarios, a street gang, who confused him for another teenager, according to authorities and Facebook apologies allegedly sent by the killers. Security videos showed the teen trying to hide from the men behind a counter in the bodega and then stumbling in bleeding from his lethal stab wounds.
Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago’s lawyer, Patrick Joyce, compared the defendants to the Central Park Five when discussing media applications with the judge, saying he was trying to avoid a “similar media frenzy.”
“Not so long ago in this city, the media latched onto individuals (who) were accused of horrific crimes,” Joyce said. “A private citizen said they are guilty, they should get the death penalty ... when no one knew what really happened.”
Joyce was referring to the infamous assault, rape and sodomy of a woman who was jogging in Central Park in April 1989. Amid high-profile media coverage, five young men were arrested and imprisoned for the crime. But the case unravelled when a state prisoner, Matias Reyes, claimed he attacked the woman. The convictions of the original five defendants were vacated. The de Blasio administration paid them $41 million in a settlement.
One defendant in Lesandro’s case, Elvin Garcia, 23, did not appear as he is undergoing surgery on his left hand, his lawyer, Steven Kaiser, told reporters. Kaiser said Garcia will not testify before the grand jury.
Five other defendants — Hernandez Santiago, 24, Danel Fernandez, 21, Jose Taverez, 21, Jose Muniz, 21, and Jonaiki Martinez Estella, 24, — also will not testify before the grand jury. They are due back in court July 16.
Lesandro’s family left the courthouse just before the end of the hearing, and did not speak with reporters.