NEW YORK – The reputed leader of a neighborhood street gang has admitted a role in an assault on three people that authorities called one of the worst cases of anti-gay violence in New York City history.
Idelfonso Mendez pleaded guilty Thursday to gang assault, though not to any hate crime charges, in the October 2010 beating that authorities described as a violent act mixed with gang ideology and bias against gays.
Mendez, 26, took a plea deal that entails a 14-year prison term. The Bronx district attorney's office said the agreement reflected the victims' wishes to avoid having to testify at a trial.
"I take full responsibility for everything that happened," Mendez said, though he said that he was high on drugs when police questioned him and that many statements attributed to him weren't true, according to The New York Times.
At the time, the case was one in a spate of alleged anti-gay attacks across the region, and it sparked horror and outrage among the public and lawmakers. However, a lawyer for another suspect has said his client wasn't motivated by hatred of gays.
Mendez and several other men were accused of beating and torturing two teenagers and a man because authorities say the attackers believed the victims were gay.
The assault began after members of a loosely organized street crew known as the Latin King Goonies heard a rumor that one of their teenage recruits was gay, police and prosecutors said at the time. Mendez was a leader of the attacks, prosecutors said.
Ten people were initially arrested, but charges against three were dropped. With Mendez' plea, six have pleaded guilty and are serving varying prison terms; a case against a seventh man is pending.
The victims "wanted to find a way which adequately punished the individuals responsible and also avoid having to testify at a trial," Steven Reed, a spokesman for Bronx DA Robert Johnson, said.