Mayer Herskovic, the Williamsburg man who participated in the brutal gang beating of a gay man in 2013 was found guilty by a judge and could face up to 15 years in prison, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced yesterday afternoon.
Herskovic was convicted of second-degree gang assault, first-degree unlawful imprisonment and menacing for his role in the gang beating of Taj Patterson, then 22, an assault that involved at least some members of the Williamsburg Safety Patrol, an ultra-Orthdox neighborhood patrol group. Paterson, who is black, came away from the attack with a broken eye socket and a torn retina, and ultimately was left permanently blind in one eye.
During the trial, Patterson testified that he was cornered by a group of almost 20 men in South Williamsburg, some of whom had Shomrim logos on their clothing, who accused him of vandalizing cars in the area. After surrounding him, Patterson told a judge presiding over the case that some members of the mob began to beat him while others surrounded the incident so passing traffic couldn't see it. Peterson also said that the crowd beating him called him "a fucking faggot"
Taj Patterson, after the beating. (Taj Patterson)
An NYPD detective explained to the judge how police faced stonewalling beyond anything they had ever encountered while gathering evidence for the trial. For instance, the police have to send a Jewish undercover officer posing as a victim of a robbery to get access to surveillance footage from a nearby business. Police also found one of Patterson's shoes, with Herskovic's DNA on it, on a nearby roof, where a member of the mob threw it away in an attempt to hide it.
The prosecution also played a tape of a witness' 911 call from the night of the December 2013 beating, in which she described a gang of "like 20 Jewish men" beating Patterson up. The witness, who was in a car that Peterson tried to get into in order to escape the beating, was told by the crowd to not let Peterson in her car.
Waiting for the verdict (JB Nicholas)
Herskovic was the only one of the five men arrested for the beating who eventually went to trial. Two men were released after witnesses changed their stories about seeing them participate in the attack, and two other men took plea bargains and received no jail time.
Police had initially closed their investigation of the beating after filing it as a misdemeanor assault one day after Patterson filed his report. Only after his mother, Zahra Patterson, alerted the media to the extent of the beating, was the case reopened and more thoroughly investigated.
"Today’s verdict is a testament to our determination to fully prosecute this case based on the evidence, which clearly connected this defendant to the crime. I hope that this outcome will bring a measure of comfort to Mr. Patterson and his family,” District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a press release announcing the verdict.