Abel Cedeno (Facebook)
A gay American youth who killed a fellow high school student in class after being bullied for years was sentenced to jail this week.
Two years ago, 18-year-old Abel Cedeno stabbed Matthew McCree, 15, and Ariane Laboy, 16, at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in New York City, leading to McCree’s death.
Cedeno, who faced ongoing homophobic bullying, brought a knife to school to protect himself because, he said, the bullies often brought weapons of their own.
He alleged that on the day of the incident not only did his abusers throw pencils and pens at him in class but that he was also punched by McCree.
Cedeno claimed he lashed out in self-defence, saying at the time: “I thought that I was going to die.” He later stated: “I was alone and no one was going to help me. So I took out the knife.”
The judge in the case, however, has found that the bullying did not justify what he did to his classmates. He also rejected appeals, including from LGBTQ groups, that Cedeno be granted Youthful Offender Status, which could have seen him avoid jail time.
“I believe you paid an emotional price for the repeated acts of being bullied, which undermined your self-image and psychological well-being,” Judge Michael Gross told Cedeno, now 20, but added: “Your history is not an excuse for what you did.”
He sentenced the young man to 14 years in prison for manslaughter, eight years for assault and 90 days for criminal possession of a weapon. The sentences will run concurrently.
Ahead of the sentencing, Cedeno apologised for what he had done. “I know I was the one who brought the knife to school. I am sorry for everything. I have to live with this for the rest of my life. I feel horrible about it every day, morning and night. I would take it all back if I could. I am not a monster.”
The city’s Education Department faces lawsuits from the boys who were stabbed and from Cedeno who claim that it was negligent in not preventing both the bullying and the deadly response.
“We are heartbroken by the conviction and sentencing of Abel Cedeno and the circumstances which led to the fatal incident at his school,” said the New York City Anti-Violence Project in a statement.
“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.
“Our system failed all three of these young men who deserved to go to school in an environment that respected and honoured their differences and built a community in which they could all thrive,” said the group.