NEW YORK (CBS/WCBS/AP) Eight of the nine suspects in a brutal Bronx gang assault were arraigned on Sunday, making their first court appearance.
The gang members used an anti-gay slur to ask two teen boys and a 30-year-old man about their sexuality, before brutally torturing and beating them last week in a working-class Bronx neighborhood, authorities said in court.
According to CBS affiliate WCBS, during the proceeding Sunday, Assistant District Attorney Theresa Gottlieb said that each victim was asked prior to being beaten in the Oct. 3 attacks: "Is it true that you're a f**?"
The defendants did not enter pleas to charges that include robbery, assault, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes. The most serious charge carried a potential 25-year prison term. Police were looking for a ninth suspect, who had been expected to turn himself in but didn't show.
The nine men, believed to be members of the Latin King Goonies gang, had heard a rumor one of their teenage recruits was gay and on the night of Oct. 3, found him, stripped and beat him and sodomized him with a plunger handle until he confessed to having had sex with a man, police say. The gang members then found a second teen they suspected was gay and tortured him, police say.
Police say they also invited the man the first teen had admitted having sex with to a house, telling him they were having a party; when he arrived, five of them burned, beat and tortured him for an hour.
The man was sodomized with a miniature baseball bat by a defendant who taunted him with, "You like that. You like that," the criminal complaint said.
Two of his attackers went to his home, court papers and authorities said, where they encountered the man's brother. They punched him, bound his hands with rope, put tape around his head before and threw a mattress on top of him, authorities said, and demanded money and jewelry and threatened him with death before leaving with cash and a 52-inch flat-screen television.
The suspects were identified as Ildefonzo Mendez, 23; Elmer Confresi, 23; David Rivera, 21; Steven Caraballo, Denis Peitars, Nelson Falu and Bryan Almonte, all 17; and Brian Cepeda, 16.
WCBS reports Bronx Criminal Court Judge Harold Adler set bail for Peitars and Caraballo at $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash; the other six were held without bail.