Guilty pleas in White Castle cop beating

May 5, 2008 6:48:04 PM PDT
All five men charged with the savagely beating an off-duty NYPD officer inside a White Caste restaurant in the Bronx pleaded guilty Friday. The men reached a deal with prosecutors just as a jury was about to be selected to consider whether they attacked officer Eric Hernandez last January.

The assault, caught on surveillance video, shows Hernandez being punched and kicked. The injured cop then followed the group outside and drew his weapon.

He was shot and killed by responding officers.

None of the men were charged in connection with his Hernandez's death.

Edwin Rivera, 27, of 1295 Spofford Avenue, pled guilty to the top count in the indictment, Gang Assault in the 1st degree. Rivera, who instigated the attack, will be sentenced to a term of 10 years in prison.

Nelson Rodriguez, 28, of 621 Manida Street, pled guilty to one count of Attempted Gang Assault in the 1st degree and will receive a sentence of six years in prison.

Alexander Fontanez, 25, of 1168 Sherman Avenue, and Jonathan Ayala, 21, of 1150 Garrison Avenue, pled guilty to one count of Gang Assault in the 1st degree and will be sentenced to five years in prison.

Victor Mercado, 17, of 1212 Seneca Avenue, also pled guilty to one count of Gang Assault in the 1st degree and will be sentenced to a term of one 1/3 to four years imprisonment. Mercado, who was 15 when the crime occurred, will be sentenced as a youthful offender.

All of the defendants waived their right to appeal their convictions and all except Mercado will be subject to an additional five years of post release supervision after completing their sentences.

The defendants admitted that they had acted "with intent to cause serious physical injury to Eric Hernandez, and being aided by two or more persons actually present, did cause serious physical injury."

A sixth defendant charged in the gang assault, Daryl Massey, 25, of 1230 Boston Road, is still awaiting trial.