A Long Island teenager convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Jeffrey Conroy got the maximum penalty Wednesday in the November 2008 death of Ecuadorean Marcelo Lucero.
As the sentencing was read, Conroy's father jumped up in court and yelled "show some mercy. He's 17 (expletive) years old! Jesus Christ!"
Outside, courtroom officers tried to restrain the father as he punched walls.
Conroy was found not guilty this month of murder as a hate crime, but convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime, gang assault, conspiracy and three charges of attempted assault in other cases.
Conroy was implicated along with six others in the killing, but was the only one charged with murder because prosecutors say he was the one who stabbed the victim. Four others have pleaded guilty to hate crime-related charges; two are awaiting trial.
Prosecutors say Lucero's killing was the culmination of a campaign of violence against Hispanics in an avocation Conroy and his friends called "beaner-hopping" or "Mexican hopping."
Conroy, a three-star athlete at Patchogue-Medford High School, admitted to police he was responsible for the stabbing but took the witness stand last week to say he had taken the blame for one of his co-defendants — a teenager he had just met earlier that night.
Jurors had the option of choosing whether to convict Conroy of either murder or manslaughter as hate crimes; they also had the option to consider the charges without the hate crime accusation.
Since the killing, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into hate crimes on eastern Long Island and the police response to such cases.
Prosecutors said many Hispanics attacked in the days before Lucero's killing were afraid to report the crimes to police, fearing questions about their immigration status. The teenagers, she said, were aware of that trepidation and took advantage of their victims' fears by operating with impunity.
Lucero, 37, was walking with a childhood friend, Angel Loja, near the Patchogue train station around midnight when they were confronted by the teenagers, who prosecutors say were strolling around town looking for targets.
The teens began yelling ethnic slurs and approached the men, authorities said. One of the teens punched Lucero in the face, and within moments, Lucero and Loja, were swinging their belts in self-defense, prosecutors say.
After Conroy was hit in the head with Lucero's belt, he lost his temper and stabbed the man in the chest, prosecutors say.
In heart-rending testimony delivered late last month, Loja described his last moments with his friend.
"I heard the blood rushing from my friend," Loja told a hushed Suffolk County courtroom. "It sounded like water from a faucet."
Although Loja, 37, described the teens as "animals" who beat and kicked Lucero, he did not testify about actually seeing the stabbing and he never identified Conroy as the man with the knife.
Loja also confirmed that prosecutors paid him up to $600 a month after the killing.
The Ecuador native testified he could not find work because of his connection to the Lucero killing and would have had to return to his homeland without the aid. Conroy's attorney had hinted the aid tainted his testimony.