CENTRAL ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- The three Long Island high school students, believed by law enforcement to be members of MS-13, who allegedly stabbed a fellow student earlier this month were arraigned Tuesday on felony assault charges.
Ramon Lopez, Nobeli Zuniga and Oscar Molina, who are all students at Huntington High School and who came into the country illegally as unaccompanied minors, pleaded not-guilty to the charges. They're being held on $100,000 cash bail.
Attorneys for all three defendants denied the fact that their clients are members of MS-13 and said their clients were the victims, having been attacked by a melee of 15 to 20 boys.
"They were actually the instigators and they were the ones actually to have maybe some gang affiliation," said Zuniga's attorney, Donald Mates.
Prosecutors said on Jan. 9 at 2:30 p.m., Lopez stabbed a 16-year-old male Huntington High School student in the back outside a Burger King in Huntington Station. They said Zuniga and Molina assisted in the attack and were found to have been carrying knives, lead pipes and bats. Investigators said two knives were later found in Molina's shoes. Zuniga allegedly drove the car in which they all escaped.
"The evidence will show that these individuals, the defendants, believed that the other individuals were staring at them in some sort of disrespectful way," Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said following the defendants' arraignments Tuesday in Central Islip.
Sini said in 2017, Suffolk police identified both Lopez and Molina as MS-13 gang members. He said the two admitted to police they were members of the gang. They were detained for several months by federal authorities and ICE before federal judges ordered they should be released.
"They returned to Suffolk County and here we are -- now indicted for stabbing another boy," Sini said.
Lopez's attorney, Jason Bassett, said a federal judge issued a 46-page decision chastising the government for holding Lopez without having sufficient evidence to prove he was a member of MS-13.
All three defendants are due back in court next month.
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Suspected MS-13 members arraigned on assault charges in fellow student's stabbing on Long Island