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It’s ‘not a crime’ to be in MS-13, lawyer for accused Queens gang leader says at murder trial

It’s not a crime to be in MS-13, the lawyer for one of the bloodthirsty gang’s leaders said at the first day of his racketeering and murder trial in Brooklyn Federal Court.

“The crimes are horrible. The crimes all happened,” Melvi Amador-Rios’ attorney, Murray Singer, told jurors during his opening statement Monday. “The defense position is that he didn’t do these things. He wasn’t involved.”

Singer conceded that Amador-Rios is a member of the gang, but told the jury that would not be enough to convict him.

“Here’s the thing: It’s not a crime to be affiliated with MS-13. … MS-13 is not a crime. Being a member of MS-13 is not a crime,” he said. “It’s not enough to prove that the crimes took place, and it’s not enough to prove that Melvi was part of the organization.”

Amador-Rios is accused of ordering the brutal murder and near decapitation of a low-level MS-13 member, 16-year-old Julio Vasquez, in a Queens park, as well as ordering the murder of another teenager, Luis Serrano, who was shot in the face and paralyzed. He also planned four armed robberies of Queens businesses, prosecutors allege.

“Don’t get lost in the emotion. My God, there’s going to be a lot of emotions,” Singer said. “Please, please, please, don’t get lost in that.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Raffaela Belizaire said, though, that every murder committed by the MS-13 “clique” in Queens went through Amador-Rios, who as leader was responsible for enforcing the gang’s rules. Those rules included killing rivals and turncoat MS-13 members whenever possible, and never talking to law enforcement.

“As the leader of the clique, the defendant issued a series of murder missions,” she said, adding that Vasquez was killed on May 16, 2017, because the teen could not bring himself to kill a

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