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, and recently stopped 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 some of 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."