In 2008, a series of attacks against Latino residents of Patchogue, New York (Suffolk County) culminated with the hate crime killing of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who had lived in the Long Island village for 13 years. Seven local teenagers from Patchogue-Medford High School were arrested for the attack—one was charged with murder, the other six were charged with gang assault and conspiracy.
Over a two-year period, the story follows Mayor Paul Pontieri, the victim’s brother Joselo Lucero, and Patchogue residents as they openly address the underlying causes of the violence, work to heal divisions, and initiate ongoing action to ensure everyone in their village will be safe and respected.
The Climate in Suffolk County
The film, Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness, focuses on events between 2008-2010, but according to a recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Latino residents in Suffolk County, New York have been the victims of hate crimes for at least a decade.
The 2004 documentary, Farmingville, documents the attacks on Israel Perez and Magdaleno Estrada Escamilla, two Mexican day laborers who were lured into a building with the promise of work. Two assailants were sentenced to 15- and 25-years for the brutal hate crime attack.
Teen Attacks in Patchogue
In September 2007, six of the seven teens implicated in Lucero's murder appear on SPLC's timeline of attacks against Latinos in Suffolk County. In January 2009, the Justice Department, the FBI and the local U.S. District Attorney opened their own investigations into hate crime allegations and attacks.
Following the murder trial of Marcelo Lucero in the spring of 2010, Jeffrey Conroy was convicted of first degree manslaughter as a hate crime and received a 25-year sentence. The six other teenagers pleaded guilty to gang assault and conspiracy as hate crimes and are serving 5- to 8-year sentences.
See SPLC article, "DOJ Says Suffolk County, N.Y., Police Need Improvement on Hate Crimes," and the Sept. 13, 2011 letter from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to Suffolk County leadership.
Follow the trial and legal actions with Newsday's extensive coverage.
Articles of interest:
"Jury selected for trial of Conroy in Lucero killing," 3/12/10
"Portrait of defendant in Patchogue hate-crime trial," 3/17/10
"On eve of trial's start, family recalls Lucero's life," 3/17/10
"Patchogue hate-crime murder trial begins," 3/18/10
"Testimony: Teens drank before stabbing death," 3/18/10
"Waiter describes attack by 4 teens in Patchogue," 3/23/10
"Friend of slain immigrant describes Patchogue attack," 3/24/10
"Forensic scientist describes Lucero crime scene," 3/25/10
"NY immigrants say tensions fade after bias attack," (AP) 3/27/10
"Lucero's mother goes to Conroy trial for the first time," 4/8/10
"A stunning twist as Conroy testifies at trial," 4/8/10
"Conroy's mother testifies in his defense at trial," 4/9/10
"Conroy guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime," 4/14/10
"Brown: Suffolk anti-immigrant frenzy accommplished little," 4/25/10
"Family files $40M suit in fatal hate crime in Patchogue," 11/22/10
"Part of Luceros' $40M lawsuit dismissed," 11/7/11
Extended interview with Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota
Extended interview with prosecutor and Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Megan O'Donnell