Suffolk Exec apologizes for comments

November 18, 2008 10:21:21 PM PST
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy apologized directly to the family of the murdered Ecuadorean man who police say was targeted because he was Hispanic."It was a mistake for me to make that comment because it could appear to trivialize the tragic death of Mr. Lucero and for that I humbly apologize to his family. My strong and immediate denouncing of the act was a clear indication that trivializing this event was the last thing I wanted to do," Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said in a televised address. Levy said last week that if the killing had occurred elsewhere, it would have been treated as a "one-day" media story.

Seven teenagers face arraignment this week on an indictment; specific charges have not been announced. Prosecutors say Marcelo Lucero, 37, he was attacked by a "lynch mob" while walking near the Patchogue train station. His companion escaped unharmed.

The junior and six seniors at Patchogue-Medford High School are jailed and have pleaded not guilty to preliminary gang assault charges. Two were held without bail, including the teen suspected of plunging a knife into Lucero's chest. That teen, Jeffrey Conroy, 17, is also charged with manslaughter as a hate crime. All of their attorneys say they are innocent.

The killing prompted outrage far beyond Long Island; last week the Ecuadorean ambassador to the United States urged that charges be upgraded to murder, a call many others have echoed.

Levy, a popular Democrat who last year was re-elected with 96 percent of the vote, thanks to unprecedented cross-endorsement by the Republicans, has been criticized by many advocates of Hispanics for encouraging strong crackdowns on illegal immigration.

Tens of thousands of Mexicans, as well as immigrants from Central and South America, have traveled to Long Island in the past decade in search of employment. Many stand on street corners seeking manual labor - landscaping, painting, carpentry - for about $10 an hour.

Levy, a co-founder of Mayors and Executives for Immigration Reform, has been seen by some as intemperate on the issue. He signed a law that requires contractors doing business with the county to certify their employees are in the country legally. He has also supported proposals aimed at getting the laborers off street corners, and has backed crackdowns on overcrowded housing.

On Tuesday, Levy tried to assure immigrants that Suffolk Police will not ask crime victims their immigration status.

"Police officers do not ask a victim's immigration status. We are committed to equal enforcement of the law and equal police service to all, regardless of immigration status," he said.

However, Levy also defended his longtime policies and said the community's healing process should begin across ideological lines.


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