Abel Cedeno, the bullied Bronx gay teen charged with manslaughter in last September’s fatal stabbing of classmate Matthew McCree, is back in court on June 25. Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark is vigorously prosecuting him, but she is also responsible for prosecuting Kevon Dennis, McCree’s brother, who with co-defendant Jonathan Espinal is charged with armed robbery of witnesses to the classroom incident — allegedly stealing their cellphones at knifepoint, threatening students who saw what happened, and trying to compel them to tell them of Cedeno’s whereabouts.
Clark has not brought charges of witness tampering against Dennis, and in another case where Dennis was accused of threatening Cedeno inside the courthouse after an appearance there by Cedeno her office did not produce an assistant district attorney for a court appearance and the judge threw that case out.
As this issue has heated up, Clark canceled a Bronx brunch with the Stonewall Democrats citing a conflict. Her office says that “when she cancelled the brunch, the DA said she would meet with them at her office. I do not believe they have called to schedule an appointment.”
Bronx gay teen defendant seeks court intervention over threats from dead youth’s brother
The LGBT Caucus of the New York City Council wrote to Clark, calling on her to help secure an order of protection for Cedeno and his family, who say they are being threatened by YGz 800 gang members — including Dennis — loyal to McCree. Cedeno and his family have been living at undisclosed locations due to the threats.
Louna Dennis, McCree’s mother who is suing the city for $25 million for the death of her son, vehemently denies her sons have been gang members but both can be seen in Facebook posts making gang signs.
In a response to the Caucus letter, Clark insisted in an April 26 letter to the councilmembers that she is prosecuting Cedeno “with the utmost integrity, diligence and fairness.” But she wrote that “a judge will determine whether an order of protection is appropriate” and that her office “does not have the authority” to issue one.
Christopher R. Lynn, co-counsel for Cedeno, said, “Her office has the authority to ask for an order of protection and in the past 35 years each and every time I have heard a district attorney request one the judge has agreed without exception.”
Patrice O’Shaughnessy, director of communications for the Bronx DA, wrote in an email on June 19, “We made the application for TOP (Temporary Order of Protection) for Abel Cedeno on May 21. Judge [George R.] Villegas denied the application for a TOP to be granted against Dennis because he didn’t make the threats. He did grant a TOP against codefendant Espinal (the uncle) because he actually made the threats. Tomorrow we will ask to extend the order.”
A query about why no witness tampering charges were filed was not answered. O’Shaughnessy wrote she was still looking into the additional charge against Dennis at the courthouse.
Lynn went to court on June 20 to ask Villegas for the third time to issue an order of protection for Cedeno and his family from Dennis.
Villegas denied that order late Wednesday, claiming he did not have jurisdiction — even though the request was supported by assistant district attorney Theresa Gottlieb.
Lynn’s co-counsel, Robert J. Feldman said, “If anything happens to Abel his blood will be on the hands of this court.”
The judge, while refusing the formal order of protection then ordered everyone to stay away from Abel — an absurd edict if it were to apply to his attorneys.
Prior to Villegas denying the order of protection, Gottlieb told Lynn she had earlier asked for and was denied an order of protection for Cedeno from Dennis, since the summons for the courtroom incident had been dismissed and was sealed. She told Lynn “there’s nothing else we can do unless you want to raise it yourself and make your argument.”
According to Lynn, “She’s correct Kevon was charged with being disorderly and that was dismissed but the court officer, Karen Burns, wrote an affidavit in which she swears Kevon attacked Abel, was stopped, and Kevon stated, ‘I could have gotten him.’”
Lynn said that on May 13 Ariane Laboy, whom Cedeno is charged with assaulting in last September’s classroom melee, posted a direct threat against Cedeno’s life.
Laboy posted on social media, “First nigga wanna violate matt now he coming for dat man. nigga is buggin not bumping lil tjay no moree.” According to Lynn’s experts on gangs, that translates to “Since Matt was killed I’ve been distraught; now I’m gonna kill (bump) the guy who killed Matt.”
Laboy has an order of protection from Cedeno, but Cedeno can’t obtain one for himself or his family from either Laboy or Dennis.
In response to Clark’s letter but prior to learning of the order of protection against Espinal, Councilmember Daniel Dromm, chair of the LGBT Caucus, told Gay City News, “The members of the LGBT Caucus urge the Bronx district attorney to ensure that true justice is served — and not to merely prosecute the case. While we understand the complexities of this case, providing Adel Cedeno with an order of protection seems to be the least the district attorney’s office and the criminal justice system can do to protect the integrity of the process. This seems to be a typical instance of anti-LGBT bullying. Abel’s physical safety should be protected while he awaits justice.”
Lynn said that in court on June 20 Gottlieb greeted and spoke with Kevon Dennis’ mother, Louna. A prosecutor meeting with a family member of a defendant is something Lynn called “unprecedented.”