Abel Cedeno, The Bronx student responsible for fatally stabbing a classmate and injuring another over years of homophobic bullying, received a fourteen year prison sentence on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old was sentenced for the manslaughter of Matthew McCree, then 15, and for grievously injuring Ariane LaBoy, then 16, at the now-shuttered Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in New York City in 2017.
Addressing the court before his sentence was handed down, Cedeno said, “I’m not the same person as I was two years ago,” according to Time magazine.
“I’m sorry for the pain and suffering I caused on the family.
“I’ve been sorry about everything, for the damage I caused for hurting two families.
“I call myself a monster. I call myself a murderer for everything I’ve done, everything that happened … I feel horrible every day. I wish I could take it all back.”
While Judge Michael A. Gross did not dispute that Cedeno was traumatised by McCree and LaBoy, who bullied him for being gay, he refused to excuse Cedeno for his actions.
“I believe you paid an emotional price for the repeated acts of being bullied, which undermined your self-image and psychological well-being,” Gross told Cedeno in a packed Bronx Supreme Court courtroom where both victim’s families, Cedeno’s family and the surviving victim were present.
“Your history is not an excuse for what you did,” he said.
“With his passing died a future of boundless dreams
“That classroom was turned into a nightmare that day.”
Gross also added that Cedeno’s victims weren’t just those he stabbed, “but each of the 20 students who witnessed the attack and suffered trauma that will be with them forever”.
As well as sentencing Cedeno for manslaughter and assault, Gross added a further 90 days imprisonment for possession of a weapon. The sentences will run concurrently and will be followed by five years of post-release supervision.
Gross also rejected numerous pleas for Youthful Offender Status for Cedeno from LGBTIQ groups, youth counselling organisations and elected officials. Cedeno, who had just turned 18 at the time, would have faced one to four years if granted Youthful Offender Status and been eligible to have his record wiped clean after serving his sentence.
McCree’s aunt, Lacy Providence, spoke to the packed Bronx courtroom. She told of her family’s devastation and described the memory of seeing Matthew’s body being rolled into the room on a gurney.
“Matthew had a heart of gold,” Providence said.
“We love gay, straight, black, white. Abel has destroyed our family.
“Seeing what Abel did to my nephew made me lose faith in everything I believed in.
“Matthew’s lifeless body was drenched in blood with a cut so deep I could see his ribs.”
Cedeno fatally stabbed Matthew McCree in the chest with an illegal switchblade at the East Tremont school on September 27 after he flew into a rage when a paper ball or pencil was tossed in his direction.
Cedeno, who claimed self-defence at the time, then stabbed Ariane LaBoy five times when he tried to intervene.
LaBoy’s mother, Felicia also delivered a victim impact statement about the injuries to her son and the loss of his best friend.
“I’ve always protected my son but I could not protect him that day. Cedeno did not know my son. I’m sure he was bullied, but not by my son,” she said.
Cedeno was represented pro-bono by two gay lawyers, Christopher R. Lynn and Robert J. Feldman, who described the proceedings as a “gay pride trial”.
One of Cedeno’s lawyers, Lynn, called his client’s sentence “excessive” and said he plans to appeal it.
Members of the LGBTIQ community have rallied to Cedeno’s defence over the year, arguing that Cedeno is also a victim of unacceptable abuse and that the school should have taken prior action against those who had bullied a gay student.