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2 face charges of intimidating witnesses in S. End shooting

Ricardo Arias, in court Tuesday, is accused of fatally shooting Alex Sierra, 18. Ricardo Arias, in court Tuesday, is accused of fatally shooting Alex Sierra, 18. (Angela Rowlings/Pool)
By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / September 8, 2011

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Two men have been charged with intimidating witnesses in the weekend shooting in the South End in which an innocent teenager allegedly was killed because of where he lived.

Derrick Hunt, 21, of Roxbury, and Jose Maysonet, 19, of the South End, were arraigned yesterday at the Edward Brooke Courthouse -the same courthouse where two of their acquaintances appeared Tuesday to answer to charges related to the slaying of Alex Sierra, 18.

“No one - not a victim, not a witness, not a family member, not anyone - should have to endure threats and intimidation, and least of all in a courthouse,’’ Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.

Both men arraigned yesterday were reputed associates of Sierra’s alleged killer, Ricardo Arias, and of Mission Hill gang members.

Maysonet allegedly threatened a witness in Saturday’s killing just before Arias was to be arraigned. Maysonet made eye contact with the witness - whose identity was withheld - extended his right index finger, and drew it from ear to ear across his neck in what the witness perceived to be a threat, authorities said in a statement.

Maysonet also allegedly made gang signs with his hand during the threat, authorities said. Members of the Boston Police Youth Violence Strike Force, who were at the courthouse, were notified by courthouse security and Maysonet was arrested. He pleaded not guilty, and was released on his own recognizance. He must wear an electronic monitoring device, comply with a curfew, and report back to court on Sept. 30.

Hunt was arrested separately while a 16-year-old was being arraigned on charges of being an accessory after the fact to Sierra’s slaying. A witness in the shooting, whose name was withheld, told a Boston police homicide detective that Hunt and two associates warned out loud, “someone else is going to die today.’’ The other two associates fled. Hunt was arrested.

He pleaded not guilty, and had his bail revoked on a previous charge of trespassing and assault and battery on a police officer.

Prosecutors had asked that both men be held on $2,500 cash bail.

Sierra’s shooting had already outraged authorities. The teenager was not affiliated with any gang members and was committed to his schoolwork, his relatives said. He recently took part in an MIT program meant to connect city teens with science and technology and was a peer leader at the Cacique Youth Learning Center, a nonprofit that works with low-income youths in the South End.

Arias, 17, had been in the custody of the state Department of Youth Services because of a gun possession charge.

On Saturday evening, he was free on a one-day pass to attend a Red Sox game, according to authorities.

Instead of going to Fenway Park, he and an associate wandered through the South End asking people whether they lived in Villa Victoria, a low-income housing complex associated with a rival gang. An unsuspecting Sierra replied “yes’’ and was fatally shot, authorities said.

DYS officials said they are investigating the pass issuance but would not comment on Arias’s case specifically because he was a juvenile in their custody.

In general, they said, juveniles who are close to aging out of the system are often given passes that range from two hours to a weekend.

Youths who do well during supervised outings, beginning 90 days before their scheduled release, are eventually allowed to go home or attend a recreational activity unsupervised.

At times, the youth may be required to wear a monitoring device. Arias was not wearing a device at the time of his arrest, police said.

But Jane Tewksbury, DYS commissioner, said in an interview yesterday that even when juveniles are released without state supervision, they are required under a predrafted plan to be under some type of adult supervision, particularly a parent or legal guardian. It was not known who that guardian would have been in Arias’s case.

“Youths do not go on an unsupervised DYS pass and get to do what they want,’’ she said. “We will check in, and we will require they check in with us.’’

The DYS reentry policy has been praised as a way to gradually transition a youth from state supervision to unsupervised release.

Juvenile justice advocates said they do not recall a release resulting in such tragedy.

But the decision to grant a pass to Arias came under scrutiny yesterday.

City Councilor Michael Ross questioned whether Arias’s gun-possession charge should have disqualified him from receiving a pass.

“These decisions are playing themselves back out into the city of Boston, on our streets and in our neighborhoods,’’ Ross said. “To let someone out without supervision, I think it can have reckless consequences.’’

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@MiltonValencia