NEW YORK – Two additional suspects were charged Tuesday in several brutal attacks that authorities believe were touched off because gang members thought one of their recruits was gay.
A tenth suspect, 22-year-old Jose Dominguez, surrendered to detectives Tuesday and was arraigned in the Bronx Criminal Court on charges of gang assault, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes. It wasn't clear if he had an attorney. No one answered the phone at an address provided by police.
A suspect who was arrested Monday, Ruddy Vargas-Perez, was arraigned Tuesday on charges including robbery, gang assault and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes.
Benjamin Heinrich, an attorney for Vargas-Perez, said his client was innocent and denied that he was even present at the attacks. He described Vargas-Perez as a hardworking carpenter and family man.
Police say Dominguez and Vargas-Perez participated in at least one of the attacks on two teens and two men on Oct. 3.
Members of a street gang who called themselves the Latin King Goonies targeted a 30-year-old gay man after he apparently had a sexual encounter with one of their recruits, authorities said.
The 17-year-old was beaten and sodomized with the handle of a plunger until he confessed to his involvement with the older man, authorities said. The mob later went after the 30-year-old, luring him to an abandoned apartment they used for partying, where they tied him to a chair and assaulted him, police said.
Another 17-year-old was also attacked because it was believed he too had an encounter with the 30-year-old man, and the older man's brother was also attacked after gang members went to their shared apartment and robbed the place of cash and a TV, police said.
Initially, authorities said nine people participated in the attacks, but later concluded there were 10. Police say Dominguez has been accused of hitting the first victim with a pipe. No one else is being sought, but it's possible more suspects could surface during the continued investigation, police said.
Eight of the men were arraigned Sunday on hate-crime charges including assault, sexual abuse and harassment. They did not enter pleas. Two attorneys represented them at the hearing but didn't expect to represent all of them through the legal process. Family members have said the men are innocent.
Vargas-Perez was taken into custody after his attorney had told authorities he would be surrendering to police on Tuesday. He had failed previously to show up as promised.
But on Tuesday, Heinrich said that media reports that his client had not shown up when he was supposed to were false. He said Vargas-Perez surrendered to authorities based on an arrangement with investigators.
"He's innocent and he doesn't belong to any gang," said his aunt, Griselda Perez, outside the court house while holding a picture of his nephew with the word "innocent" printed on it.
The beatings in the Bronx, plus the recent string of anti-gay attacks and teen suicides elsewhere attributed to homophobic bullying, have drawn rebukes from government leaders and gay advocates.