THE BRONX (PIX11)- Bronx gang members have allegedly threatened prosecutors and a key witness in the ‘Justice for Junior’ murder trial, authorities said.
Defendants Diego Suero and Frederick Then, alleged leaders of the Trinitarios gang, are on trial for murder in the slaying of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz four years ago. Suero is accused of ordering the hit on the teen.
Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dolan told the court she was confronted by a young, Dominican man on her way to the Bronx courthouse Wednesday morning before her security detail stepped in to handle the situation.
“He got in my face, but didn’t say anything,” said Dolan, adding the man continued to watch her and her colleague as they left.
On Tuesday, a group of Los Sures, a sect of the Trinitarios, were hanging out on a corner near the Bronx Hall of Justice during a lunch break after state witness Kevin Alvarez testified, authorities said. The group was allegedly waiting for the prosecutors and/or Alvarez.
“The people are treating this as a direct threat to the witness and prosecutors,” Dolan said. “Should a direct threat interfere with a witness, we will take action.”
Dolan told the court Suero called Alvarez a “rat” during his testimony Tuesday. The defense lawyers denied any knowledge of the threats or the “rat” comment.
But Supreme Court Justice Martin Marcus warned the defendants against any potential interference.
“An attempt to affect a witness in any way won’t be tolerated,” the judge said.
“That conduct will do you no good so you may want to deal with that if you can,” Marcus said of the gang members hanging around the courthouse.
In the courtroom, Alvarez continued his testimony about how Suero ordered his soldiers to hunt and kill Sunset gang members.
He said a “357” hit was put on Junior, meaning they were going to kill the teen.
After following Junior to the bodega, Alvarez and another member dragged him out and beat him. Alvarez said he repeatedly punched Junior.
“He said ‘stop,’” Alvarez said the teen told him.
On June 20, 2018, Junior was slain by a group of Trinitarios gang members at the corner of 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue in Tremont. The teen was dragged out of a bodega and onto the street where he was stabbed with a knife and machete in a case of mistaken identity, authorities said.
The prosecution then played the video showing a bloody Junior staggering into the deli for help before being told to leave. The gash on his neck was dripping and left several pools of blood on the deli floor. The teen then exits the store and heads to St. Barnabas Hospital, leaving another bloody trail behind, the footage shows.
The video shook Alvarez.
He sat quietly staring at the monitor with his hand over his mouth for a few moments. Dolan asked if he needed a minute, but there was no answer. The judge then asked Alvarez if he wanted a break, and he eventually nodded.
At that point, just after the video was done, Junior’s mother, Leandra Feliz, walked into the courtroom.
When Alvarez returned to the stand, he said there was a “357” order on him, and the code would last the rest of his life.
“They wanna kill me,” he said.
The defense, however, tells a different story.
Suero’s lawyer, Lynn Calvacca, painted Alvarez as a liar with a troubled and complicated past, from dropping out of high school to being discharged from the Army. Alvarez also admitted he was also a member of the Bloods gang for around three years.
Calvacca attacked Alvarez’s credibility, using an interview he did with a newspaper while he was locked up. Alvarez told the reporter that he didn’t know the crew chasing Junior had weapons and that he was not a member of a gang.
He testified to the contrary on Tuesday.
“Yes, I lied to presume myself innocent, that was my right,” Alvarez repeatedly said in a testy exchange.
On cross-examination, Alvarez said he was never told to kill someone, but was ordered by Suero to hunt for Sunset gang members.
Calvacca also went after his plea agreement with the state. Alvarez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and conspiracy and was let off with time served. Alvarez previously testified that he made the deal because he regretted the incident and he wanted to help the victim’s family.
But Calvacca didn’t buy that, telling him, “you took the easy way out.”
Alvarez’s testimony resumes Thursday.