Bryan Almonte and Brian Cepeda were originally believed to be among the attackers in the Bronx’s vicious Latin King Goonies attack. Now investigators say they’re among the victims.
Originally there were four victims in the disgusting assault: two teenagers (beat, burned, and sodomized), an adult man (lured into an abandoned building for a “party,” then tortured), and the man’s brother (robbed at his home). But now Almonte and Cepeda, initially believed to be among the perpetrators, have switched teams. The pair’s names were originally included on the indictment but soon released While in jail, some of the suspects indeed insisted to officials they were actually victims. Now prosecutors believe them.
The indictment says Almonte was assaulted while Cepeda was threatened with a pair of pliers. The four other victims were allegedly attacked with a can, a stick, a pipe, a bat and a lit cigarette. The defendants are facing 75 total counts, including gang assault, sexual abuse, robbery and burglary. Several offenses have been charged as hate crimes, and the most serious counts each carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.
David Rivera is one of only two defendants facing all 75 charges. His lawyer, Jason Foy, said it was a mistake to accuse his client of a hate crime. “I know that Mr. Rivera’s involvement — to whatever degree that might be the case — was not based upon hatred of homosexuals,” said Foy. “I know that for sure.”
The development arrived yesterday while five suspects (of seven total) were being arraigned on hate crime charges — where the judge warned the families of the defendants that he has heard about threats against the victims, and that needs to stop. O…kay. Meanwhile the attorneys of some suspects claim one of the alleged victims should be on the other side of the courtroom facing criminal charges.
And here’s the problem this case presents: Some of the attackers may have been victimized themselves, forced — either mentally, physically, or under the threats of violence — to assault the victims. Are these men criminals? Or did they fear for their safety and lives if they broke rank?
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