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A bisexual New York City youth was sentenced today to 14 years in prison for killing a schoolmate who he said had bullied him severely.
Abel Cedeno was convicted in July of first-degree manslaughter, assault, and criminal weapons possession for fatally stabbing 15-year-old Matthew McCree and seriously injuring Ariane LaBoy, then 16, in 2017 at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx. Today Bronx Supreme Court Justice Michael Gross handed down the 14-year sentence, the New York Daily News reports.
Cedeno, who was 18 at the time of the attack, could have been sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. He also could have received a much shorter sentence than the 14 years if Gross had granted him youthful offender status, which the judge declined to do because of the seriousness of the charges. Cedeno had waived his right to a jury trial, so he came before the judge alone.
"I didn't get my 50 years, but I'll take 14," McCree's mother, Louna Dennis, told reporters, according to the Daily News. "Had he gotten youthful offender, it would have been maybe one-and-a-half. I'll take the 14."
Cedeno, who came out as bisexual after his arrest, had said at his trial that he was merely defending himself after having endured years of homophobic bullying that went unchecked by school administrators. He said he brought a knife to school "to deter -- to scare people away." The day of the stabbing, he said, he was being pelted with wads of paper and other items, and when he demanded to know who was throwing them, McCree stepped forward to take credit.
Cedeno testified that McCree charged at him and punched him several times. He did not deny stabbing McCree and LaBoy, but he said he was not sure when the knife entered their bodies. Some students, however, said Cedeno started the fight.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark issued a statement saying there was no evidence that McCree or LaBoy had bullied Cedeno. Cedeno, for his part, testified that he felt horrible about the attack and the pain it caused the families of McCree and LaBoy.
"I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life," he said. "I regret it so much, and I wish that I could take it all back."
The New York City Anti-Violence Project released the following statement, calling the entire situation a tragic outcome of bullying: "We are heartbroken by the conviction and sentencing of Abel Cedeno and the circumstances which led to the fatal incident at his school. From an early age, Abel was bullied by classmates for being gay and school officials failed to address or end the bullying. The inaction of the NYC Department of Education created a climate of increased bullying and lack of safety for Abel and led to the tragic altercation that injured Ariane LaBoy and took the life of Matthew McCree. AVP has supported Abel as a survivor and his family and submitted a letter to the court petitioning he be sentenced as a youthful offender, which the court denied. Our system failed all three of these young men who deserved to go to school in an environment that respected and honored their differences and built a community in which they could all thrive."