By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A Chinatown teen charged with murdering another young man during a Hester Street brawl lied on the witness stand about the incident, prosecutors said during closing arguments Monday.
Victor Fong, 18, a former high school honors student, is charged with stabbing 18-year-old Nelson Pena to death and nearly killing Vincent Rivera, 17, in the Nov. 18, 2009 melee. Fong testified last week that he slashed Rivera on the neck to defend himself against being hit with a metal cane. But in closing arguments Monday, prosecutors said Fong's behavior suggested he was trying to get even with a bully, not trying to save his life.
"[Fong] stabbed [Rivera] right in the neck, not once but twice and he runs right after him," said Assistant District Attorney Steven Nuzzi, adding "that shows you that he's not afraid, that it's not self defense — it's revenge."
Nuzzi attacked Fong's credibility, claiming he lied during cross-examination whenever the line of questioning strayed from what he had "rehearsed."
Fong was untruthful when asked about why he carried a knife and what he did after he fled the crime scene, the ADA argued.
"On these areas where he is not prepared, he lied and you should consider that when you decide [on] his testimony as a whole," Nuzzi added.
Fong, who spent eight months at Rikers Island before he was granted bail with the consent of prosecutors, is facing as much as life in prison if he's convicted on the second-degree murder charge.
His defense team paints a much different picture about last year's events. They argue that no single prosecution witness was able to say they saw Fong stab Pena.
There are holes so large in the DA's case "you could drive a Mack truck through them," said Robert Brown, a lawyer for Fong.
For example, Rivera was caught on surveillance video, and admitted in court, to beating Fong with a metal cane, Brown said.
Brown also said there was no biological evidence to support the DA's theory that Fong's knife was used to slash Rivera and stab Pena to death.
At trial, Fong's lawyers attacked the credibility of the DA's star witness, Jesus Baez, who was caught lying about his criminal history and was pressed on his purported affiliation with several Lower East Side gangs.
They also argued Fong's self-defense attack on Rivera was "perfectly reasonable" because he was "surrounded by 21 thugs" with a host of weapons.
In addition, the video shows Fong was across the street tangling with Rivera at the time of Pena's stabbing.
Fong's trial began on Dec. 7 in front of Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Bruce Allen. Jurors were expected to begin deliberations Monday afternoon.
"This case is clearly a tragedy — a young man is killed," Brown told jurors. "Hopefully you reached the conclusion that he was murdered by somebody else, not by Victor Fong."