Image: Jeffrey Conroy
James Carbone  /  AP
Jeffrey Conroy, 17, foreground, and other teens arrested in connection with the hate crime murder of an Ecuadorean immigrant, in the Fifth Precinct in Patchogue, N.Y.
updated 5/26/2010 12:51:52 PM ET 2010-05-26T16:51:52

A New York teenager has been sentenced to 25 years in prison in the hate crime killing of an Ecuadorean immigrant.

Nineteen-year-old Jeffrey Conroy got the maximum sentence Wednesday. The Suffolk County Court judge who sentenced him says "the proof was overwhelming."

Conroy was convicted last month of manslaughter as a hate crime and other counts in the November 2008 stabbing death of Marcelo Lucero on Long Island.

Conroy was one of seven teenagers implicated in the killing but the only one to go to trial.

After the sentence was imposed, Conroy's father, Robert Conroy, shouted an expletive, saying his son was only 17 at the time of the attack.

The killing focused national attention on Long Island's Suffolk County, which has seen an influx of immigrants from Central and South America in the past decade. In a September 2009 report, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented repeated attacks on Hispanics since 2000.

Conroy had made statements to police following his arrest that he was the one responsible for stabbing Lucero, but he testified in his own defense at trial that Overton had been the actual stabber. Conroy explained that Overton, whom he had just met that night, confided that he already had pleaded guilty to burglary in a case where a man was killed and could not afford further trouble with the police.

Jurors said after the trial that they did not believe Conroy's claims.

Lucero, 37, was walking with a friend when the teenagers confronted them. Prosecutors say the teens were walking around town looking for targets, began yelling ethnic slurs and approached the two men. One of the teens punched Lucero in the face. Lucero and his friend swung their belts in self-defense and began to chase the teens.

Prosecutors said Lucero hit Conroy in the head with the belt and that the teen lost his temper, opened the folding knife and lunged at Lucero's chest.

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