Today was the last time Long Islanders will see Jeff Conroy for at least two decades.
When I learned while I was driving out to Riverhead that Conroy had received 25 years for the killing of Marcelo Lucero, I felt relieved. Yesterday’s news that Judge Doyle had announced that Chris Overton, who had been involved in the deaths of two men, would not serve more than seven years for his part in the Lucero killing worried me. I wondered if a similarly light penalty would be meted out to Conroy.
Defense lawyers I knew said it was not unusual for someone convicted of manslaughter to receive just 12 years in jail.
What message would that send to other young men in Suffolk, out for a night of fun at the expense of Patchogue’s Latino community?
But there was a lot working against Conroy. First, while the New York Times once portrayed him as a good kid, the reality, apart from his racist attacks, was different. As Ted Hesson wrote earlier today:
On May 10, 2008, Conroy was arrested for punching a young man in the face and head, O’Donnell said. And in July 2008, he was a person of interest—along with Jose Pacheco, another Lucero attacker—regarding slashed tires at a Hyundai dealership in Medford.
From 2006-2008, Conroy had 24 disciplinary infractions at school, for a variety of offensives including cutting class and using foul language with teachers.
And we all remember how Conroy lied when he took the stand to defend himself, concocting a story in which he portrayed himself as a non-participant in the attack and pinning the blame on Chris Overton.
When a judge decides a sentence, one factor he looks at is remorse. How can a man show remorse when he says, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that he did not commit the crime.
Until Conroy faces up to what he did, and tells those of his backers still deluded by his lies that he was a hate killer, he will be denied parole.
And until Suffolk’s leaders face up to what they did to foster the climate of fear for immigrants, they will not even begin to cure the sickness in the county.
On my way out of the Riverhead courtroom I overheard Conroy’s attorney say that Suffolk’s leadership thinks that sending Conroy to jail will end the problem. He said that “Suffolk County has to do something to address this hatred against immigrants.”