NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Five suspects with alleged ties to the MS-13 gang faced a judge on Long Island on Wednesday. One by one, they pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and attempted abduction charges.
Defense attorney Mary Beth Abbate said that her client, Lilliana Villanueva, 17, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Abbate said Villanueva was simply with her boyfriend.
But officials said that Villanueva and four other men, 18 to 20, earlier this month tried to kidnap and murder a 16-year-old rival gang member. Court documents allege that their sole purpose was to elevate their status by killing him.
Suffolk County detectives stepped in after the defendants attempted to coerce the teen into a van not far from Brentwood High School, where four of them attend. Police confiscated knives, bats, a tarp, and duct tape from inside the van.
Abbate said that Villanueva was doing nothing, wasn't armed, and told the driver to drive away and not do anything.
But prosecutors said that written confessions from some of the defendants clearly identify their roles.
Defense attorney Pete Mayer said his client, Oscar Fuentes, 18, maintains his innocence.
"Just because someone is from El Salvador does not mean automatically that he's a member of MS-13 when he's from Brentwood," Mayer said.
Three of the defendants are unaccompanied minors. Two of them are here illegally. Bail levels range from $100,000 to $1 million. They're due back in court in January.