Newsday is reporting that Jack Eddington, a Suffolk legislator whose office is just blocks from the spot where Marcelo Lucero was killed by Jeffrey Conroy, wrote a letter in support of clemency for the convicted killer. Here are excerpts from Newsday’s story:
Suffolk Legis. Jack Eddington and his wife, Patricia, the Brookhaven Town clerk, thrust themselves into the final chapter of immigrant Marcelo Lucero’s murder last week, writing letters on behalf of convicted killer Jeffrey Conroy before his sentencing.
Of the more than 100 letters submitted to State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle by Conroy’s family and friends, the Eddingtons were the only elected officials to speak out.
For politicians, such letters always bring potential for backlash in direct mailing and radio and TV ads down the road.
“It’s like writing a letter with nitroglycerin,” said Paul Sabatino, former counsel to the county legislature. “It can explode before you can put your signature on the bottom.”
The Rev. Allan Ramirez, an advocate for Hispanic immigrants, said he views the Eddingtons’ letters “as insensitive at best and at worst pandering to the anti-immigrant mentality” that may exist within their community.
However, Jon Schneider, Brookhaven Democratic chairman, defended the couple’s action as a sincere effort to aid a family that lives nearby.
“I think it was a heartfelt personal thing,” he said. “Jack and Pat have been successful in politics because they are two very genuine people who do things from the heart and not in a calculated way.”
Eddington himself said he was not concerned about any prospective political backlash. “I don’t care,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”
His wife added, “If I can make life easier for people, that’s what I try to do.”
“It’s a sad time,” said the former assemblywoman, who was elected to her town post last November. “I was asked to write a letter because I know these people forever.”
In her letter, Patricia Eddington called the Conroys “a good hardworking family” now facing tragedy. “I just want you to know that Mr. Conroy, his wife and his children have always been there to support the community. I’m writing you today to support the family that has always supported others,” she said.
Jack Eddington said the killing was “deplorable” and must be punished, but, he added, “I have to believe that, for a young man raised in such a family, redemption is possible.”
Some Hispanic advocates, however, viewed the Eddingtons’ letters as appearing to minimize the horrific crime.
“This has a tendency to anger a community of color when sympathy is extended to the perpetrator of a crime,” said Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Central Islip).
Others felt the Eddingtons’ focus was too narrow. “Our job as elected officials is to heal the entire community,” said Mayor Paul Pontieri of Patchogue, where the crime occurred. “It’s not to give an opinion on the judgment, or influence the opinion of a judge.”
However, political consultant Michael Dawidziak, who works mainly for Republicans, said the Eddingtons deserve “a lot of credit” for the flak they will likely take. “Everything is fodder for negative campaigning and they know it,” he said.
Now, lets put this into perspective. Eddington was known for telling constituents in the Conroys’ neighborhood that undocumented immigrants were responsible for many of the community’s problems in the months leading up to the Lucero killing. Locals told me then that they worried he was inflaming the situation.
He also infamously asked Latinos testifying at the county legislature if they were in the country legally, while never asking the same question of whites.
Now let’s look at the Conroys.
Jeff Conroy was described by Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy as a neo-Nazi.
Conroy had a swastika and a white power emblem tattooed on his thigh and told a girlfriend that he had them there because he agreed with the ideas behind them.
Conroy was convicted not only of killing Marcelo Lucero, but also of hate-related attacks on several other Latinos. In addition, he was under suspicion by the police in other crimes not related to bias attacks. He had disciplinary actions taken against him two dozen times at school.
Has Conroy reformed since he was arrested? Let’s remember that a jury of his peers said that he lied under oath when he said that Chris Overton was the real killer. To this day Conroy has not admitted what is obvious to everyone.
As for Conroy’s parents, Jeff Conroy told prison officials that his parents held racist views. His family was so “good” that Conroy was able, as a high school student, to spend whole nights out drinking and patrolling for “beaners” with his buds.
What would it have taken for the Eddingtons not to write a letter in support of Conroy?
Perhaps if he was brown?