DNA evidence links an Orthodox Jewish man to the senseless and vicious beating of a gay African-American man, prosecutors said on Monday.
After a night of partying with friends on Dec. 1, 2013, Taj Patterson decided to walk to his Fort Greene home instead of taking the train.
As an allegedly intoxicated Patterson strolled in the street on Flushing Ave. to avoid the rats and garbage on the sidewalks, he heard a scream and saw someone he did not know running towards him.
“He got scared and started running … he was cornered by 5, 6, 7, 8 Orthodox Jewish men, pinned against a gate,” said Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough during his opening statements for Mayer Herskovic’s gang assault trial.
Herskovic’s attorney Israel Fried did not present an opening argument for Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who is presiding over the non-jury trial.
Videotaped surveillance from three residents on Flushing Ave. was shown on Monday of apparently Orthodox Jewish men running after Patterson around 4:30 a.m.
Patterson, 25, frantically knocked on the windows of two vehicles driving by, pleading with them to let him. Neither stopped.
One of those drivers called 911 around 4:45 a.m. and told the dispatcher it “didn’t seem safe,” said Gough.
Patterson was able to get one arm free and got one punch in before he was thrown to the ground where he was repeatedly kicked, punched and stomped.
During the melee, Patterson’s Nike sneakers were ripped off by Herskovic and thrown on to the roof of 475 Flushing Ave.
Prosecutors said they’ll show Herskovic’s DNA was found on the back of the sneaker.
Prosecutors also intend to call two witnesses who did intervene.
“You’ll hear from Jose Guzman who saw a group of individuals, it was the Hanukkah season, thought they were celebrating — jumping up and down. When he got closer he saw they were stomping on a person,” said Gough.
An MTA bus driver also stopped and took photos which prompted the attackers to leave.
EMTs responded and treated Patterson’s eye, which was swollen shut and looked “like a baseball,” said Gough.
After three surgeries, Patterson was left “virtually blind” in his right eye, the ADA said.
Four of the other defendants’ Pinchas Braver, Abraham Winkler, Joseph Fried and Aharon Hollender were charged, but their cases were either dismissed or reduced to misdemeanor plea agreements.
If convicted, Herskovic faces up to 25 years in prison for the top charge.
A member of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watchdog group, who claims he’s innocent of the brutal beating that nearly left a gay, black fashion student dead, may be done in by his victim’s footwear, prosecutors revealed in court Monday.
Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough said that defendant Mayer Herskovic’s DNA was found on Taj Patterson’s sneaker — which was thrown from his body and landed on the roof of a nearby Williamsburg building during the Dec. 2013 attack.
At one point during the fatal ambush, Patterson, 23, was pinned up against a fence while he was punched and kicked brutally by 15 to 20 men, Gough told Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who is presiding over the bench trial.
Surveillance footage depicts the young man wriggling free and attempting to flee, trying to get help from passing drivers. He even banged on the window of one car, desperately screaming, “Please let me in, let me in!” Gough said in opening statements.
The driver, who didn’t stop, called 911, telling the dispatcher, “It didn’t seem safe to stop, too many of them were out there.”
South Williamsburg locals tried to stonewall an NYPD investigation into the mob attack on a gay African-American man, an NYPD detective testified Tuesday in the trial of the only accused attacker still facing charges.
Hate Crimes Unit Detective Eric Sanchez recalled that when investigators went to try to retrieve surveillance footage of the early-morning 2013 beating of then-student Taj Patterson that left him blind in one eye, “We discovered that many of the residents in the area were being uncooperative.” Sanchez explained that when asked for footage, people in the heavily Hasidic Jewish area would claim their cameras were broken or weren’t set to record at the time.
Only after repeated instances of this did it occur to detectives to send Jewish detectives, and according to the Daily News, one undercover investigator in particular gained access to footage by claiming to have been the victim of a robbery the same night.
The testimony came in the trial of Mayer Herskovic on gang assault and other charges. The gang assault charge alone carries as many as 25 years in prison. His codefendants have pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment, a misdemeanor, and dodged jail time, though they are currently quibbling about a judge’s requirement that they perform community services in “culturally diverse neighborhoods”—they had applied to volunteer for a Jewish children’s health group. Two other codefendants saw their charges dropped after some witnesses changed their tunes.
Prosecutors claim that the attackers are members of the local Shomrim organization, a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood patrol with many of the accouterments of actual police, and witnesses have said that the 15 to 20 men who surrounded Patterson, yelled anti-gay slurs, and beat him were wearing clothes with Shomrim insignias on them.
Patterson is also suing the Shomrim group, the Williamsburg Safety Patrol, which has denied that all the suspects were members, though it has not gotten more specific, and the city, for its ties to the organization. The NYPD reportedly closed the investigation into the assault on Patterson shortly after he filed a complaint, and only reopened it after Patterson’s mother spoke out in the press.
Herskovic’s DNA was allegedly found on one of Patterson’s shoes, which a member of the mob threw onto a rooftop.
Herskovic’s attorney Israel Fried asked Sanchez on Tuesday if he had ever encountered such recalcitrance during an investigation before, to which Sanchez said, “Not to this magnitude.”