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Rights group alleges Suffolk still fails Latinos

AP/Craig Ruttle

Latino rights advocates are accusing the Suffolk County Police Department of mishandling an investigation into the death of a migrant laborer. While critics stop short of alleging a cover up, they are calling on the federal government to take over the investigation.

The complaint dates back to a 2010 attack against two migrant workers from Mastic. The men went on a drinking binge and, at some point, were viciously attacked by multiple people, who beat and sodomized them.

One of the victims survived. The other did not.

Police began an investigation, but a Latino rights group says the investigation has been riddled with problems.

The group, Latino Justice, says this is another example of Suffolk cops inadequately policing crimes against Latinos.

In the past the Federal Department of Justice has investigated Suffolk for previous incidents. Foster Maer, a lawyer with the group, wants the DOJ to take over again.

"We want to make sure they also look at the behavior of the Suffolk County Police," Maer says, "Did they properly investigate it? Did they inappropriately hide this from the public's awareness?"

Along with a number of other problems, Maer says police never investigated the attack as a hate crime. According to Maer at least one investigator told others that he thought a white supremacy group was involved in the attack.

Police say they are still investigating the case and cannot discuss it publicly.

In an emailed statement the department said the crime was never investigated as a hate crime.

"This case was a homicide and was handled by the Suffolk County Police Homicide Section...We can assure the public that this case is being thoroughly investigated," the police statement read.

Suffolk police have a damaged reputation when it comes to fighting crime against Latinos. The Department of Justice spent nearly five years investigating Suffolk's lack of response to widespread reports of attacks against Latinos.

Last year the county avoided a lawsuit by agreeing to a number of procedural changes and federal monitoring of the department.  

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.
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