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8 arraigned in string of anti-gay hate crimes in New York City

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Eighth arrest made in alleged hate crime
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The suspects face charges that include robbery, assault and sexual abuse as hate crimes
  • A judge sets bail at $100,000 for two defendants; the others are being held without bail
  • One more person is still being sought in connection with the crimes

New York (CNN) -- Eight suspects arrested in connection with a series of brutal, anti-gay hate crimes in New York City were arraigned Sunday.

Charges against them include harassment, criminal possession of a weapon, unlawful imprisonment, assault, robbery and sexual abuse as hate crimes.

Authorities identified the suspects arraigned as Bryan Almonte, 17, Steven Carabello, 17, Brian Cepeda, 17, Nelson Falu, 17, Idelfonso Mendez, 23, Dennis Piters, 17, David Rivera, 21, and Elmer Confresi, 23.

Bronx Criminal Court Judge Harold Adler set bail at $100,000 for defendants Piters and Carabello, according to the spokesman for the Bronx district attorney. The remaining suspects were ordered held without bail, he said.

The teenagers are being charged as adults, police have said. None of the defendants entered pleas at the arraignment.

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A ninth suspect, previously identified as 22-year-old Ruddy Vargas-Perez, remains at large.

Police say the men held three victims against their will -- beat them in a vacant apartment and sodomized two of them. A fourth victim was beaten and robbed in connection with the attacks, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said.

The string of attacks started when members of a street gang calling themselves the Latin King Goonies learned an aspiring member had sex with a man, authorities said.

According to Kelly, the 17-year-old pledge was forced into an unoccupied apartment around 3:30 a.m. on October 3 and questioned about his contact with a 30-year-old man.

The assailants repeatedly used anti-gay slurs as they attacked him, according to the criminal complaint in the case. The pledge was thrown into a wall, forced to strip naked, hit in the head with a beer can, cut with a box cutter and sodomized with the wooden handle of a plunger, Kelly said.

His assailants let him go, but threatened to hurt him or his family if he talked.

The victim went to a hospital for treatment, but initially claimed his injuries were from an attack by unknown assailants on the street, the commissioner said.

At about 8:30 p.m October 3, another 17-year-old was beaten and questioned about the same 30-year-old man, robbed of jewelry and held against his will in the same vacant apartment, Kelly said.

At 9:30 p.m., the 30-year-old man was lured to the location where that 17-year-old was being held, was forced to strip naked and was tied to a chair opposite the teenager, the commissioner said. The teenager was forced to hit the older male several times in the face and burn him with cigarettes, after which the suspects assaulted him with their fists and a chain and sodomized him with a small baseball bat, Kelly added.

Suspects then went to the apartment the 30-year-old victim shared with his older brother and let themselves in using a key they'd taken from the man, Kelly explained. They beat the man's brother and demanded money from him.

When he refused, the assailants put a cell phone to his ear and he heard his younger brother say that he was being held against his will and to "give them the money," the commissioner said. The older brother told the suspects where they could find money, after which they tied him up and left the apartment, Kelly added.

The 30-year-old victim was later dumped outside his home.

The hate crimes task force took over the investigation, the commissioner said, and coordinated with the Bronx Gang Division and Bronx Special Victims Squad to help identify and capture the suspects.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke out Saturday against the attacks.

"I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened at the anti-gay bias that contributed to them," he said. "Hate crimes such as these strike fear into all of us."

The next court date in the case is scheduled for October 14.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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