Calls to Protect Gay Student in Bronx Slay Case

Abel Cedeno with his mother, Luz Hernandez, outside a Bronx courtroom after a recent hearing. | ANDY HUMM

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the Council’s LGBT Caucus, and two other Bronx councilmembers are calling on Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark to secure an order of protection for Abel Cedeno — the gay student charged in the September 27 classroom fight that left Matthew McCree dead — from McCree’s brother, Kevon Dennis, who was ticketed for threatening Cedeno at the court on March 6 and arrested for armed robbery of witnesses in the case on the afternoon of the incident last fall.

“We understand that Abel has requested but not received an order of protection against Kevon,” the councilmembers wrote. “Such measures have been liberally granted in other cases, yet Kevon’s access to Abel, his family, and other relevant individuals remains unchecked.”

They also said that “it is critical that you take all necessary measures to ensure that justice, i.e., a trial free of witness tampering, prevails.”

Councilmembers press DA to issue order of protection for defendant Abel Cedeno

At Cedeno’s April 23 court date, Luz Hernandez, Cedeno’s mother, told Gay City News, “We need an order of protection.”

She, Cedeno, and other members of the family have had to move to undisclosed locations in the face of what they describe as threats from Kevon Dennis and other members of McCree’s gang. While Cedeno’s lawyers, Christopher R. Lynn and Robert J. Feldman, asked for an order of protection from Judge Armando Montano, who is overseeing the case in which Cedeno faces manslaughter charges, he said that it was not within his jurisdiction to issue one and that it would have to be brought up with the judge handling the Dennis case, which does not go to court until May 21.

On the way out of the courtroom, having failed to obtain the protective order, Hernandez physically collapsed and had to be assisted into a holding room by family members.

Lynn said that Montano told Assistant District Attorney Nancy Borko, “You realize of course that if this robbery victim was an eyewitness to the Cedeno matter in the class then your failure to notify counsel and the courts creates a conflict for your office and you probably will have to consider charges of witnesses tampering.” But in open court Borko said she “did not know” if the witness allegedly robbed by Dennis was a witness to the classroom incident the same day. DA Clark is prosecuting Kevon Dennis on a series of charges including felony robbery with a weapon, but has shown no interest in pursuing an investigation into evident witness tampering and threats in the case.

Montano urged Borko to get the DA’s office to move up consideration of the request for an order of protection from Kevon Dennis.

Borko dismissed the idea that Kevon Dennis was threatening Cedeno, telling the court that Dennis shouting, “I could have gotten him. I don’t care if I go to jail” on March 6 was just a statement of what he “could” have done. Cedeno’s older brother told Gay City News last month that he saw Dennis “pull his pants up like he is going to hit someone” and shouted, “I don’t give a fuck. I’m gonna fuck him up.”

None of this seems to be of any interest to the Bronx DA.

Louna Dennis, the mother of McCree and Kevon Dennis who is pursuing a $25 million lawsuit against the city for the death of her son, ignored a question as to whether the video of the classroom incident that she released to the press was illegally obtained by Kevon. When asked again if her sons were gang members as defense counsel is asserting, she said, “They can say whatever they want. We don’t care about Abel.”

Supporters of Ms. Dennis stood behind Cedeno’s attorneys at a press conference outside the court after the court appearance making gang signs.

Louna Dennis’ attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, may see the case against Cedeno falling apart. The grand jury reduced the charges from murder two to manslaughter. So he keeps emphasizing “the failure of the Department of Education to have metal detectors installed despite a request from the principal and the failure to follow the Dignity for All Students Act,” the state anti-bullying law. It was Cedeno who was being bullied since the sixth grade and who contends he “snapped” when McCree charged him and pummeled him, defending himself with the knife that killed McCree with one cut.

In another development, a former custodian at the school, Benito Arau, has come forward to say that he was ordered by school authorities to clean up the blood in the hallway and staircase after the September 27 incident before police investigators had any chance to take blood samples. Feldman said he will move for dismissal of the case on June 25 on that basis.

“That blood should have been tested forensically,” Feldman said. “It belonged to Abel Cedeno who was injured in the mouth by McCree” and would bolster Cedeno’s self-defense.