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The five, who were arrested Sept. 5, are accused of bludgeoning to death Jin Sheng Liu, 44, the owner of the Golden Wok restaurant, after ambushing him in front of a vacant Springfield Gardens home as he tried to deliver $60 worth of food they had ordered.
The five teens, who did not have a previous record, charged with felony murder are Jamel Murphy, 17; Darryl Tyson, 18, James Stone, 17, Robert Savage, 15, all of Springfield Gardens, and Stacy Royster, 18, of Rosedale. If convicted, they face 25 years to life except Savage, who was 14 at the time of the murder and could be sentenced to nine years to life.
After each youth entered a plea of not guilty Jan. 17 before Hanoply, Assistant District Attorney Keith Kalmus read incriminating statements that contained varying admissions of guilt given to police by each defendant in the 113th Precinct when they were arrested.
There are reasons why the defendants pleaded not guilty despite the statements to police, said Mike Schwed, the attorney for Murphy.
"One, the statements might not be accurate," he said. "Two, the statements might have been coerced."
A sixth teen was identified as a participant in the crime by one of the defendants in his statement, but prosecutors said he will not be charged.
Kalmus said his office had interviewed the 13-year-old but have not arrested him.
"We have information he was not a part of the attack," he said.
The young boys and girls dressed in civilian cloths with their hands cuffed behind their backs where brought before Hanophy's bench one by one except for Tyson and Stone, who faced the judge together. Each defendant fidgeted slightly as he or she listened to the district attorney read their statements to the judge, and Royster nervously rubbed her hands.
Bail was denied for the four boys, while bail was set at $500,000 for Royster. She is being held at Rikers Island.
"They have pleaded not guilty as is their right," said Mary de Bourbon, spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney. "They will have their day in court and put the state's seat to the fire in terms of proving guilt."
While all of the defendants' statements to the police tell a different story about their alleged participation in the murder, Hanophy told the teens and their families they could all face 25 years to life in prison if a plea bargain agreement is not worked out.
Hanophy said the case against the young defendants was strong and it did not matter what part they had played in the crime. He said they are being charged with felony murder, which means everyone is as guilty as the person who actually committed the homicide.
"If the jury finds you played a part, there is no such thing as a major or minor part," he told Stone and Tyson, the last two defendants to come before the bench. "If you are found to have participated in the crime, there is no partitioning 89 percent to 11 percent. Everybody is guilty."
The district attorney charged that the teens ordered $60 worth of food from Liu's restaurant to be delivered to a vacant Springfield Gardens home at the end of a dead-end street.
Liu was allegedly ambushed by the crew, who threw a sheet over him and smashed him in the head with bricks and their fists, according to DA.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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