NEW YORK - The suspect in the shooting deaths of a Queens imam and his associate pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder Tuesday.
The victims' families attended the arraignment of Oscar Morel, a 35-year-old East New York resident, at the Queens Criminal Court.
Prosecutors are accusing Morel of gunning down Imam Maulama Akonjee and his friend, Thara Uddin. They say he fired multiple rounds and struck both victims in the head.
Akonjee and Uddin were walking home from an afternoon prayer service when they were ambushed.
Prosecutors say investigators found the gun believed to have been used in the attack in Morel's basement. They also say he admitted to both owning a Chevrolet truck seen near the scene of the crime and that his image is shown in surveillance video from near the attack.
Morel's lawyer says that although he made those statements, his client did not kill the men.
If convicted, Morel faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The district attorney's office is still investigating whether the slayings were motivated by hate.
Morel's lawyer says his client plans to testify at a grand jury hearing next week.