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Old October 28th, 2006, 07:25 AM
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Shirley bowling alley attack suspects arraigned

Shirley bowling alley attack suspects arraigned

Newsday Staff Writer

October 27, 2006, 8:53 PM EDT

The two Shirley teens charged in the sadistic sexual attack of a developmentally disabled man inside a Shirley bowling alley bathroom could face 25 years to life in prison thanks to a new law making the crime as serious as second-degree murder, prosecutors said Friday.

The announcement came as Michael Lunsford, 17, and Steven Rodriguez, 19, were arraigned on an indictment accusing them with the recently created charge of predatory sexual assault. They also were charged with first-degree aggravated sexual abuse and assault. They pleaded not guilty and were each held on $1-million cash bail.

The victim's parents quietly watched the arraignments from the courtroom and left without speaking to reporters.

"It's one of the worst crimes I've encountered in many, many, many years," Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said afterward.

Lunsford and Rodriguez attacked the man inside the bathroom of AMF Shirley Lanes on the Green on Oct. 15, Assistant District Attorney Kate Wagner said in court.

While Lunsford held the man down, Rodriguez retrieved a plumbing snake from a utility closet and inserted it into the victim's rectum, Wagner said. Both teens "turned that snake several times" while it was inside the victim, she said.

Wagner said the man suffered serious internal injuries and was hospitalized for five days at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital. He is now recuperating at home but may require additional medical attention, she said. "The tool was clearly capable of causing death," Wagner said.

Wagner noted in court that Lunsford has three unrelated burglary counts pending against him, while his co-defendant, Rodriguez, has a pending charge of menacing.

Lunsford's attorney, Thomas Foy of Lake Grove, said in court, "These are only allegations." Rodriguez' Legal Aid attorney, James Hartnett, declined to comment.

The case marks the first time Suffolk prosecutors have charged the crime of predatory sexual assault, which was signed into law in June. The charge can be applied to any aggravated sexual abuse case in which a dangerous instrument is used and a victim is seriously injured. Even the minimum sentence carries the possibility of life in prison.

Jeremy Scileppi, chief of the district attorney's office's major crime bureau, said the new statute is aptly named because it applies to sex crimes of an especially vicious nature. "It's for predators," said Scileppi.

Assemb. Thomas DiNapoli (D-Great Neck), who co-sponsored the bill creating the crime, praised Spota for "being a real leader in utilizing the stronger laws that are in the books to have them work better for victims."

Several supporters of Lunsford, who attended the arraignment, left the courtroom crying after hearing a description of the crime. "He didn't do it," one female repeatedly shouted as she walked out of the court.

"My cousin Mike is innocent," said another man before boarding an elevator. "That's all I know."

Michael Lunsford

Steven Rodriguez

AMF Shirley Lanes on the Green
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