Five teens were ordered today to stand trial on charges of third-degree murder in the death of a man who suffered a fatal asthma attack when he was jumped and beaten in a Center City subway station.

Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon set bail at $35,000 for four of the defendants and $34,000 for the fifth with the stipulation that they be held under house arrest if they are released.

In statements to police that were read into the record at this morning's preliminary hearing, the defendants admitted playing some role in the March 26 assault that left Sean Patrick Conroy, 36, desperately struggling to get air into his lungs.

But none admitted to hitting him more than twice, and one said he threw punches so his friends would not think he was a "punk."

Bennett Preston, assistant medical examiner, said an autopsy showed that Conroy, a Starbucks manager, suffered a severe asthma attack that cut off oxygen to the brain, killing him.

The attack was set off by the stress of the beating, which left Conroy with four broken ribs and bruises on his head and body, said Preston, who ruled the death a homicide.

In their statements, the defendants said a sixth male they identified only as Tim joined them as they played hooky from Simon Gratz High School and instigated the attack. But they differed on whether he actually touched the victim.

Only the five teens have been arrested in the case, and when DeLeon inquired about the whereabouts of Tim, relatives of the defendants who packed one side of the courtroom applauded.