Cops can get away with almost anything in this town, but you've got to use a little bit of discretion, because you never know if the random nobody you're assaulting for no reason will turn out to be somebody society deems important. One unidentified NYPD officer must be realizing this now, because the bystander he allegedly karate-chopped in the throat Friday morning happens to be a New York State Supreme Court judge. And he's told his story to Internal Affairs and the NY Times.
The incident occurred in Jackson Heights just after midnight on Friday. Justice Thomas D. Raffaele, 69, was headed home after cleaning out his parents' old house, which had recently been sold. Wearing a T-shirt and jeans, he came upon a handcuffed man lying face down on the sidewalk screaming at 74th Street near 37th Road, with two police officers standing over him. One officer—the one who would soon assault Raffaele—was allegedly dropping his knee onto the man's back repeatedly. Raffaele says he called 911 because an outraged crowd was gathering and he was concerned the situation could spiral into further violence.
Well, it did. The Times reports that "one of the two officers became enraged — and the judge became his target. The officer screamed and cursed at the onlookers, some of whom were complaining about what they said was his violent treatment of the suspect, and then he focused on Justice Raffaele... The judge said the officer rushed forward and, using the upper edge of his hand, delivered a sharp blow to the judge’s throat that was like what he learned when he was trained in hand-to-hand combat in the Army."
Raffaele believes the cop may have attacked other witnesses, but he can't be sure because he was on his knees in "a lot of pain." He was not arrested (neither was the man who was handcuffed) and he told the commanding officer at the scene he wanted to file a complaint. At Elmhurst Hospital, a doctor "examined his throat by snaking a tube with a camera on the end through his nose and down his throat to determine whether his trachea had been damaged." (It was not, and Raffaele was released.)
The judge, who volunteered to perform same-sex weddings last summer when New York’s gay marriage law went into effect, has filed a complaint with the Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, but doesn't plan to pursue a lawsuit at this time. "I’ve always had profound respect for what [police] do," he tells the Times. "I do feel that it’s important for this person to be disciplined. I don’t know if he should be an officer or not — what he was doing was so violent." For more on this strange story, check out NYPD Rant, where current and former law enforcement officers are discussing the incident with their signature aplomb.