A funeral party mourning the death of a young man killed in a Lynn motorcycle crash allegedly turned into a violent mob outside a Back Bay nightclub last week, attacking a stranger who tried to bum a cigarette, a prosecutor said today in court.
That request for a smoke turned into an argument. Insults flew back and forth. Twelve of the men -- including nine wearing matching rented tuxedos for the funeral -- are accused of pouncing on the stranger and his two friends on Stanhope Street, prosecutors said.
The stranger, Jose Alicea, 22, suffered such severe head injuries in the beating that he died last night at Massachusetts General Hospital. The funeral party -- which included 32 men and four women -- climbed into two limousines and tried to drive away before being stopped by police.
"Mr. Alicea was left there bleeding from a head wound on the street," said Assistant Suffolk District Attorney Cory S. Flashner today in Boston Municipal Court.
The 12 men accused in the beating all entered not guilty pleas to a charge of assault and battery with serious bodily injury or death. Security cameras captured almost the entire episode, which occurred at 2:25 a.m. on Friday outside 33 Restaurant & Lounge.
This afternoon, the victim's relatives reacted with sorrow and anger at the brutal violence that befell Alicea. They said Alicia was the father of a five year old boy and had worked most recently as the delivery man for Hi Fi Pizza in Dorchester.
The vicitim's also siblings urged anyone with information to contact authorities.
"These individuals are animals. If anybody has any information, come forward,'' said Angel Ortiz, Alicia's brother. "It's tragic. He didn't do anything to hurt these individuals. Why did it have to go down like that?''
Sandra Ortiz, the victim's sister, said the family was stunned to learn that the attack happened after the defendants attended the funeral for a friend.
"You don't have a heart if you come from a funeral and take someone else's life,'' she said.
Defense attorneys for the men criticized the method police used to identify the alleged attackers, nine of whom were wearing black tuxedos with red bow ties and red vests. Outside the nightclub on Friday, police pulled the men out of a limousine one at a time. If witnesses at the scene said they took part in the beating, police placed them under arrest.
All 12 men waived their rights to appear and did not attend the parade of arraignments this afternoon in Boston Municipal Court. Ten of the men were held on $100,000 cash bail. Another suspect had his bail revoked for an unrelated drug trafficking charge. The last man -- who is accused of providing what appears to be an alias -- was held on $200,000. All 12 men are scheduled to return to court Sept. 4.
The 12 men had come from the funeral in Lynn of a friend killed in a motorcycle crash, according to attorney Francisco Napolitano, who is representing one of the accused, Anthony Villaobos, 21, of Revere. The 12 men attended the funeral at St. Joseph Church on Union Street in Lynn, paid their respects to the family, and then ended up at the nightclub.
"The guys were honoring the passing of their friend," Napolitano said.
The friend appears to have been Enrique Fortuna, 22, who was killed Aug. 14 while traveling at a high rate of speed on a red Honda motorcycle. According to the Lynn Item, Fortuna collided with a white Toyota on Lynnfield Street at 11:50 p.m. that Friday night. Fortuna's funeral was last Thursday at 9 a.m., according to an obituary in the Lynn Item.
The Boston Licensing Board will hold a hearing on Tuesday at 10 a.m. to hear from police and the owner of 33 Stanhope St. about the beating, according to board chairman Daniel F. Pokaski. Preliminary reports indicate that the incident happened outside the nightclub after it had closed.
"All of the reports we've gotten back so far are that the licensee had nothing to do with it, cooperated fully with police, and was very helpful," Pokaski said.
The owner voluntarily turned in his liquor license on Saturday and remained closed all weekend, pending the hearing, Pokaski said.
"They'll probably get their license back unless we hear something contradictory to what we've heard so far,'' Pokaski said.
Today in Boston Municipal Court, Napolitano rejected reports that the defendants wore matching tuxedos with red accents because they were in the Bloods street gang.
"Not to make light of it, but when was the last time you saw a member of the Bloods dressed in a tuxedo, red or not," Napolitano said.
The other men charged in the beating are: Ramona Berroa, 28, of Lynn; Ramon L. Lavona, 38, of Philadelphia; Justin Cooke, 25, of Lynn; Michael Welch, 27, of Lynn; Ruskyn Garcia, 25, of Lynn; Jonathan Fernandez, 23, of Lynn; Johan Garcia, 28, of Lynn; Jose Castros, 22, of Lynn; Miguel Flaquer, 25, of Malden; Jorge Encarnacion, 26, of Lynn; and Jason Benalfew, 26, of Lynn.
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