Man Charged in Death of Activist

Newsday

By Herbert Lowe

STAFF WRITER

February 8, 2002

Bail was set at $750,000 yesterday for a man accused of the 1999 beating death of Long Island City community activist Armando Perez.

Shaguye Colbert was arraigned on second-degree murder charges in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens, in a case in which similar charges were dismissed last year against four other young men.

Colbert, 26, sat in Justice Robert Hanophy's courtroom as defense attorney Todd Greenberg entered his plea of not guilty. Colbert, formerly of Long Island City, now lives in Newark.

On Wednesday, New York detectives extradited Colbert from Essex County, N.J., where he had finished serving time after pleading guilty to complicity in a robbery.

"We look forward to fighting the charges," Greenberg said after court officers returned Colbert to custody after the arraignment. "Not only did they have four wrong people in the first case, they have the fifth wrong person now."

Perez, 51, was killed in early April 1999, in front of 34-04 24th St., in the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City, where his wife lived. Perez ran with a street gang for a time before turning to community activism. In 1979, he helped convert a dilapidated school building in Manhattan into Charas/El Bohio, a center for struggling painters, dancers and actors.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Schaeffer told Hanophy that Perez was severely beaten in a random dispute that stemmed from someone leaning on his car.

Police arrested the four young men based on two witnesses, one who later recanted and the second who was known to be unreliable. Their case never went to a grand jury and prosecutors dismissed the charges after a new witness identified Colbert and another man, Malik Hill, who is in custody in New Jersey, as the suspects.

Colbert's next court date is April 15.

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