The video is grainy, and it’s difficult, at first viewing, to tell what exactly is happening. But the crucial nine seconds it catches—of three teens engaged in a disruptive fistfight—is enough, defense attorneys say, to get manslaughter charges against their client Abel Cedeno dropped.
Cedeno made headlines last year after stabbing two classmates, Matthew McCree and Ariane Laboy, in their Bronx, N.Y., high school. Matthew, 15, died as a result of the attack; Ariane, 16, survived. Cedeno, who is gay, and students at the school contend that Cedeno, who was 18 at the time of the stabbing, had been bullied persistently throughout his time at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the West Farms section of the Bronx.
Cedeno’s friends and family say the school was aware of his being bullied but did nothing to stop it.
According to WPIX 11, Cedeno’s attorney, Robert Feldman, said the video confirms that Cedeno was persistently bullied, and that when he stabbed McCree, he was acting in self-defense. The video appears to show the final altercation among the three teens before Cedeno fatally stabbed Matthew.
In the video, the three boys can be seen scuffling, with one of the teens, who appears to be Matthew (Cedeno is wearing the pink shirt, according to GayCityNews), throwing punches and backing Cedeno up across the classroom. Students can be heard shouting in the background as teachers try to break up the fight.
The video ends shortly before Cedeno stabs Matthew and Ariane.
“If my client did not do this, he would have been severely, severely beat up again or maybe even killed,” Feldman said.
In light of the video, Cedeno’s defense team wants the manslaughter charges against Cedeno dropped. The footage was not presented to the grand jury that indicted Cedeno on manslaughter charges, his lawyers say. The lawyers told GayCityNews that they only received the video from the district attorney at Cedeno’s Feb. 1 court appearance.
At that appearance, GayCityNews reports, Assistant District Attorney Nancy Borko told the court, “We don’t believe it [the video] is material” because it was received anonymously. Borko also insisted that the video evidence was turned over to Cedeno’s attorneys “in a timely manner.”
Cedeno has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge. His next court appearance is March 6.