The U.S. Attorney General has directed Brooklyn prosecutors to seek the death penalty in the case of an alleged MS-13 gang member charged in the murders of two teenage girls and five other people, authorities said.
Alexi Saenz, 25, the accused head of the Brentwood Sailors clique, is charged in the September 2016 murders of Brentwood High School students Kayla Cuevas, 16, Nisa Mickens, 15, according to court filings.
The two girls were bludgeoned to death with bats and machetes by MS-13 gang members as they made their way home from school together. Their horrific killing was part of a homicidal overreaction to a Brentwood High School dispute just one week earlier, according to prosecutors.
Saenz is also charged in the separate killings of Michael Johnson, Oscar Acosta, Javier Castillo, Dewann Stacks, and Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla.
In February, former U.S. Attorney Richard O’Donoghue asked the Justice Department whether to seek the death penalty in Saenz’s case, and on Wednesday Attorney General Bill Barr’s office said yes.
The White House on Wednesday tweeted video of Barr discussing the takedowns of MS-13 organizations and members in New York, Nevada and California.
Paperwork filed by acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Seth Ducharme on Wednesday details the “substantial planning and premeditation” that went into each of Saenz’s torturous killings, many of which included the use of machetes and baseball bats.
The circumstances of the case are such that “a sentence of death is justified and that the United States will seek the death penalty,” the filing states.
Prosecutors may also seek the death penalty for Saenz’s brother, Jairo Saenz, 22, along with Selvin Chavez, 22, and Enrique Portillo, 22, all of whom are also charged in the brutal double slaying of the teen girls and several other killings.
Central Islip prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed an unrelated 24-count indictment charging ten MS-13 gang members for their alleged roles in six murders and two attempted murders.
Carlos Alfaro, Jose Moises Blanco, Oseas Gonzalez, Jose Jonathan Guevara-Castro, Victor Lopez-Morales, Ever Morales-Lopez, David Sosa-Guevara and Kevin Torres are charged with murder in aid of racketeering in connection to six murders, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking and other related charges.
“As alleged, the defendants committed multiple murders and other violent and wanton crimes on Long Island to further MS-13\u2032s vicious code,” DuCharme said in a statement.
“Victims were hacked with machetes, one shot numerous times and another decapitated. This office, working tirelessly with our local and federal law enforcement partners, will not rest until violent gangs are eradicated from the communities they have terrorized.”
Though the death penalty was formally abolished in New York State in 2007, certain federal crimes, such as murder in aid of racketeering and killing someone in an act of terrorism, are death penalty-eligible in all 50 states.
In March 2016, Brooklyn federal judge Nicholas Garaufis struck down a death penalty verdict in the case of Staten Island man Ronell Wilson, who executed two NYPD undercover detectives at point blank range.
Wilson was convicted and sentenced to death by two separate federal juries in the murders of Detectives Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin during a gun buy-and-bust in Staten Island in 2003.
In a 76-page decision, Judge Garaufis found Wilson was mentally unfit and thus ineligible to receive the death sentence.
President Trump praised his Justice Department for a investigations over the last three years that resulted in the arrests of more than 2,000 MS-13 members, and the deportation of 16,000 members of various gangs.
He claimed the latest actions of Barr and others in federal law enforcement are the latest step in “my administration’s war on foreign gangs of which we came into this administration and we said ‘What is going on?’ We had gangs from countries that you wouldn’t believe.”
The president also condemned the Iranian government for executing three of their own in a tweet written in Farsi accompanied by the hashtag #StopExecutionsInIran.
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