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Mother of accused recalls Midway stabbing

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Her son, Daniel Cho, was being held at Rikers Island, along with two friends also implicated in the Dec. 24 brawl outside the Forest Hills movie house that left 20-year-old Adams dead, another wounded and four others in jail."All I was asking him was what happened, what happened," said Ellie Cho, who visited her only son at the prison every other day until he was released on $50,000 bail Feb. 5. The defendants, all from Forest Hills, were arrested on Christmas Eve. Daniel Cho, charged with first-degree gang assault faces up to 25 years in prison; Peter Gerardi, 21, and his brother Herman, 17, also at Rikers on gang assault charges; could be sentenced to up to 15 years if convicted, the Queens district attorney said. The 15-year-old being held at a juvenile facility will be tried as an adult for second-degree murder and faces nine years to life in jail if convicted, according to the DA."He's in shock," Ellie Cho said two days before her son was released. "He spends most of his time teaching a (math) class to inmates and the rest of the time crying." She and her son's lawyer, Frank Hancock, said Daniel had had his "institutionary account" Ð used to buy candy bars and make phone calls Ð drained of around $40 by older inmates they believe stole his pin number. Peter Gerardi spent time in the infirmary from injuries received during a fight in the shower room more than three weeks ago, Hancock said. The night of the incident, Ellie Cho was concerned that her son was late returning from a 9 p.m. movie. At that point she was more irritated than worried -- Cho was a responsible hon ors student at Brooklyn Tech who she knew stayed away from trouble. It was something she made sure of. She routinely checked her son's pockets for cigarette butts, for instance. And whenever Cho had the Gerardi brothers sleep over, she always kept an eye out for any signs of mischief, she said. Ellie Cho described Peter Gerardi as tall, lanky and emotional. His younger brother, Herman Gerardi, is more introverted, she said, and completely devoted to her son. The brothers' mother, Linda Gerardi, declined to comment for this story. Of the four defendants, the 15-year-old, of Rego Park, was the most intimidating and, in some ways, the most respected, according to Cho. He and Daniel Cho met at Brooklyn Tech. While most students gained acceptance to the prestigious high school through tutoring and parental nudging, Cho said the teen got in on raw intellect. Though young, he was tough and leaderlike Ð two qualities that brought Cho to appreciate his company in the rougher parts of Brooklyn, she said. "When you go with (him)," Cho said, "no one touches you." Cho finally returned home from the movie with Peter some time after midnight. Ellie Cho remembers watching her son's friend, who usually said hello to her, head straight to the bathroom and close the door without a word. According to the criminal complaint filed by the DA, it was around that time that Peter handed the knife allegedly used to kill Adams to Daniel, who then tried to hide the weapon from police.Daniel's mother and lawyer indicated that it was Daniel's knife. At the theater prior to the fight, Peter's brother, Herman, had asked Daniel for the blade and then gave it to the 15-year-old, according to Daniel's statement to police. "(Daniel) and his friends fought with others and then fled," the statement said. "They went to (Daniel's) home, Pete wiped the blade and handed it to (Daniel), and he put it in a bag in his room." Accounts, however, of what exactly happened outside the Forest Hills theater vary, and police are still investigating. The Queens DA claims that after the movie the defendants attacked a group, including Adams and his friend, Yajdiel Collado, 20. During the melee, the 15-year-old allegedly stabbed Adams several times in the stomach and Collado once in the back while Cho and the Gerardi brothers repeatedly punched and kicked them, the DA said. Adams was laid to rest days later following a packed funeral service at Jackson Height's Blessed Sacrament where he had attended grade school. Collado, still recovering from the injuries, attended the service.Cho's attorney, Hancock, contended that both groups instigated the brawl with knives used on both sides -- as evident, he said, from the deep gash Peter Gerardi received on his arm. The 15-year-old's lawyer, Michael Schwed, only said his client maintains he did not stab anyone. Attorneys for Peter and Herman Gerardi did not return several calls seeking comment. According to Ellie Cho, Daniel said he approached the fight but saw little after someone threw him against a garbage container and pulled his shirt up over his eyes. The next evening, Ellie Cho returned from work at her retail business in Great Neck to find Daniel gone. Around 10 p.m. police called to inform her they had him in custody. More than a month later, after two court adjournments and no indictments, a Queens judge granted bail for Daniel Feb. 4. Ellie Cho posted the money in time for Daniel to return to school that Monday. The other defendants remain in custody. The case was due back in Kew Garden's State Supreme Court this week.While Ellie Cho is concerned about how the charges and her son's six-week incarceration might affect his college prospects and career path in civil engineering, Cho said she worries more about the impact prison will have on her son's psyche. "He's such an outgoing, likeable kid," she said. "I'm terrified of the idea of him changing into a guarded, anti-social person."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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