Nearly two years ago a gay black fashion student was left blinded in one eye after he was brutally attacked as he walked home following a night of partying.
Today three of the four Hasidic Jewish men accused of beating him went before a Brooklyn, New York judge.
Taj Patterson claims he was confronted by the ultra-Orthodox group, made up of at least 12 men, as he was headed to his Fort Greene home on December 1, 2013.
He says they assaulted him as they shouted homophobic insults.
Officers from the NYPD’s hate crime squad later arrested four men – 41-year-old Abraham Winkler, 23-year-old Mayer Herskovic, 21-year-old Pinchas Braver and 27-year-old Joseph Fried.
They are all accused of gang assault, imprisonment and menace, but no hate crime charges have been filed, despite Patterson’s claim that he was called a f****t.
One attacker allegedly kicked him as he lay on the ground and shouted: ‘stay down, f****t, stay the f*** down’ as others cheered.
He said later: ‘I was alone. I was an easy target. I’m black. I’m gay, a whole slew of reasons.’
The now 24-year-old admitted, however, that he had been drinking heavily and police included the fact that he was ‘intoxicated’ in their initial reports.
Patterson suffered a broken left eye socket, a torn retina, blood clotting, and cuts and bruises to his knee and ankles.
He is now also suing the four men – seeking unspecified damages for his injuries and accuses the volunteer safety patrol of negligence.
But Fried’s attorney Susan Necheles told: ‘We expect the case to be dismissed.
‘My client has pleaded not guilty. He didn’t’ do anything. He wasn’t even there and he is not a member of Shomrim.’
But it is believed that some of the men belong to the volunteer patrol group.
Shomrim is a self-styled neighborhood protection outfit, set up in Haredi communities throughout the US to help combat crime. Volunteers can make citizens’ arrests only.
Police however, say they have become involved in acts of vigilantism.
Shortly after the arrests in 2013, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement: ‘These indictments send a clear message that acts of vigilantism are unacceptable and cannot be condoned by the NYPD.’
Winkler was the only accused who did not appear before Judge Chun.
When asked where he was his mother told the court he was ‘still parking his car.’
The other three defendants, all stood before him and denied all of the allegations against them.
A trial is set to begin on February 22, 2016.