updated 11/5/2009 3:17:42 PM ET 2009-11-05T20:17:42

One of seven teenagers accused in the fatal attack on a Hispanic immigrant pleaded guilty Thursday to gang assault and hate crime charges and agreed to testify against the other defendants.

Nicholas Hausch entered his plea in Suffolk County Court. The teens are accused in the Nov. 8, 2008, killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue in eastern Long Island.

Lucero, 37, was walking with a friend near the Patchogue train station when they were confronted by the teenagers tooling around town allegedly looking for targets.

Lucero's friend ran away, but prosecutors say the teens surrounded Lucero, who tried desperately to fight back, smacking one of his assailants with his belt. One of the boys, 18-year-old Jeffrey Conroy, is accused of plunging a knife into Lucero's chest before running away. Prosecutors say the other six were unaware of the stabbing until Conroy told them.

Conroy is facing second-degree murder charges.

"Nick has always accepted responsibility. He has enormous remorse," defense attorney Jayson Bassett said after Hausch entered the plea before Justice Robert W. Doyle.

"Nick fell in with bigger guys, more popular guys and he wanted to impress them," he added.

Assistant District Attorney John Collins declined comment.

The teens previously pleaded not guilty to various charges in connection with the fatal attack.

Hausch could be sentenced to five to 25 years in prison, but that could change depending on his cooperation.

The Lucero slaying attracted worldwide headlines. A U.S. Justice Department probe of hate crimes on eastern Long Island has focused particularly on police response. Another report, by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has revealed "a pervasive climate of fear in the Latino community" in Suffolk County, and cataloged a litany of anti-immigrant attacks dating back a decade.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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