NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City high school student was convicted on Monday of manslaughter and assault in the fatal stabbing of a classmate the assailant claimed had bullied him.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gross handed down the guilty verdict against Abel Cedeno at a non-jury trial that featured eight days of testimony, including that of Cedeno.
The judge had heard prosecutors describe Cedeno as the aggressor in the fatal encounter in a U.S. history class at the Bronx school in 2017. As horrified teachers and students looked on, Cedeno challenged 15-year-old Matthew McCree to a fight before stabbing him in the chest with a switchblade and wounding another unarmed student who tried to intervene, the prosecutors said.
Cedeno, 19, never denied stabbing the students, but insisted he acted in self-defense after years of harassment for being gay. He said it wasn't until he was taunted, pelted with trash and punched by McCree that he made a split-second decision to pull a knife he had bought online to protect himself.
"He was attacked and never the aggressor," defense attorney Christopher Lynn said in closing arguments.
McCree's mother, Louna Dennis, told reporters outside court on Monday that she was "grateful" for the verdict.
"I'm just so happy I got justice for my son," Dennis said.
Her son's death was the first homicide inside a New York City school since 1993.
Cedeno faces five to 25 years in prison on each charge at sentencing on Sept. 10.