Police: Teen arrested for beating death of witness who planned to testify against MS-13 members

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A 17-year-old is facing murder charges in connection to the beating death of a witness who was planning to testify against MS-13 members, Nassau police say.

According to prosecutors, the suspect beat 36-year-old Maldonado Rodriguez to death with a baseball bat on Feb. 2. His body was found behind an abandoned house in New Cassel.

Police say he was also beaten in a separate incident on Feb. 1.

In October 2018, Maldonado Rodriguez was attacked while trying to protect two other people from suspected MS-13 members. Nine of those suspected gang members were arrested and Maldonado Rodriguez was slated to testify against them.

After the victim's death, some politicians and police officials partially blamed the state's new bail reform law because it forced prosecutors to hand over contact information to defense attorneys. The claim was criticized by civil rights group as a "misinformation campaign" and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick J. Ryder said there was no link to the murder and new law.

The teen suspect was arraigned Sunday. He is being charged with second-degree murder in youth court. He entered a not guilty plea in court and is being held without bail. His name has not been released.

The teenage suspect is due back in court on Tuesday. At that appearance, prosecutors say they will try to have the case moved out of youth court and into the county's criminal court instead.

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