A defense attorney is expected Monday to challenge scientific evidence a mere speckle of DNA that prosecutors say connects an Orthodox Jewish man to the gang assault of a gay black man.
Mayer Herskovic is facing up to 25 years in prison for the Dec. 1, 2013, attack on Flushing Ave. in Williamsburg.
The victim, Taj Patterson, 25, wasn’t able to identify Herskovic to the judge presiding over the non-jury trial or to police.
Prosecutors say a small amount of “touch DNA” found on the heel of Patterson’s Nike Air Jordan sneaker which was thrown onto the roof of 475 Flushing Ave. links him to the crime. The victim testified on Aug. 31 that the same person who tossed the sneaker shoved a thumb in his right eye.
Patterson underwent three surgeries and is permanently blind in his right eye. Witnesses said at least 20 Orthodox men tied to a Jewish security patrol attacked Patterson as he was walking home to Fort Greene from a friend’s birthday party.
Herskovic, 23, whose trial began on Aug. 29, is the last of five men charged in the gang assault case. Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment and were sentenced to perform 150 hours community service in a culturally diverse community. Charges against Aaron Hollender and Joseph Fried were dismissed.
Troy Holder, the prosecutor’s DNA expert, testified on Aug. 30 that a Forensic Statistical Tool was used beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation to identify Herskovic who allegedly touched the back of Patterson’s sneaker.
“The ideal sample amount to use is 500 picograms, but you can use a range under 500 to 100,” said Holder, a city forensic pathologist.
Holder found 97.9 picograms of Herskovic’s DNA on the sneaker which defense attorney Israel Fried challenged on cross examination. A picogram is the equivalent of one trillionth of a gram.
After Assistant District Attorneys Timothy Gough and Tyear Middleton rested their case on Wednesday, Fried alerted Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun that he wanted to call his own DNA expert.
Justice Chun initially denied Fried’s request, but granted it the following day.
“DNA is a crucial aspect that the people (prosecutors) are relying on. Actually crucial is an understatement, it’s extremely critical,” said Justice Chun on Thursday.
The trial was adjourned until Monday in order for the attorneys on both sides to prepare for the DNA expert.
Witnesses Jose Guzman and MTA bus driver Evelyn Keys testified that almost 20 Hasidic Jewish men were kicking, punching and dragging Patterson. Guzman and Keys also saw a shoe being thrown to the roof.
“They had on black suits, white shirts, curls on their face some had hats, some had on navy blue jackets with letters on their backs,” Keys testified on Aug. 30.
A 9/11 caller described the scene as “a bunch of Jewish guys beating up a black guy.”
“Everyone was looking exactly the same. The ones in my view had curly locks on the side of their faces, yarmulke, long black coat,” Guzman testified Wednesday.