Two men who attacked a fashion student in south Williamsburg in December 2013, were sentenced to three years of probation and 150 hours of community service on Tuesday.
Pinchas Braver, 22, and Abraham Winkler, 42, were among five men arrested in 2014 for the 2013 attack on Taj Patterson, 25. Braver and Winkler, along with Aharon Hollender, 31, Mayer Herskovic, 24 and and Joseph Fried, 28, attacked Patterson early in the morning on December 1st as he walked home from a party on Flushing Avenue near Spencer Street.
Patterson, who is gay, said the men yelled homophobic slurs at him as they beat him. “I was alone. I was an easy target. I’m black. I’m gay, a whole slew of reasons,” Patterson said.
Patterson was taken to Woodhull Hospital, where he was treated for bruises, blood clotting, a torn retina and a broken eye socket. He remains blind in his left eye.
A witness to the beating said the men who attacked Patterson appeared to belong to the Williamsburg Safety Patrol, or Shomrim, a neighborhood watch group comprised of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who patrol south Williamsburg. The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force investigated the attack, but Braver and Winkler ultimately avoided hate crime charges.
Braver and Winkler were charged with gang assault, which could have landed them both in prison for 25 years, but later took a plea deal for "unlawful imprisonment," a misdemeanor. Mayer Herskovic, another of the men charged with Patterson’s beating, didn’t take the deal, and is scheduled to go to trial on August 23.
Within a day of the attack, the NYPD inexplicably labeled the case closed, despite multiple witnesses and two license plate numbers. The 90th Precinct's Crime Analysis sergeant subsequently reopened the case 48 hours later, and the department eventually disciplined the officer who had closed it, citing his “poor judgment.” The investigation received increased scrutiny after Patterson’s mother, Zahra Patterson, went to reporters at the New York Daily News, which first reported the story.
"The sergeant closed out the investigation for improper reasons,” Patterson's lawyer said at the time. “What possible justification could there be? It's either one officer's rank racism — or a connection to the Shomrim."
Part of the plea deal requires Braver and Winkler to perform their community service in "culturally diverse neighborhoods"—a condition they tried to get out of. The duo asked to be allowed to perform their service with Chai Lifeline, a group that helps Jewish children with life-threatening illnesses, the NY Post reports. The court denied their request. The two have 30 days to choose another organization, or one will be assigned to them.
They will also have to pay Patterson $1,400 in restitution, but the Daily News reports that they were given an extension on Tuesday.
Patterson, meanwhile, is suing the city for unspecified damages, claiming that the Williamsburg Safety Patrol acts as an unofficial, unaccountable extension of the NYPD, and that the NYPD gives ultra-Orthodox Jews preferential treatment. An investigation into NYPD corruption involving Hasidic neighborhood patrols has also contributed to a backlash against the patrol groups.