By Graham Rayman, Hella Winston and Reuven Blau (NY Daily News)
May 17, 2016
The three Orthodox Jewish men accused of brutally beating a gay black man and leaving him partially blind will likely not serve prison time under an expected plea deal, the Daily News has learned.
The case largely crumbled once at least two witnesses to the December 2013 beatdown changed their version of events after initially implicating the members of the Shomrim volunteer Jewish security patrol, sources said.
Also, surveillance video from the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, scene is limited, people familiar with the case told The News.
Taj Patterson, 25, was walking down Flushing Ave. in Williamsburg in December 2013 when he was set upon by a gang of men shouting anti-gay slurs, prosecutors said. Patterson suffered severe injuries including a broken eye socket and a torn retina that has left him permanently blind in one eye.
Patterson's lawyer charged members of the insular Hasidic community pressed the witnesses to recant.
"The Shomrim claim they are committed to justice, yet they shut down witnesses with an efficiency the mafia would envy," said Patterson's lawyer, Andrew Stoll. "They banish and shun any member of their community who dares to come forward."
The three defendants are Abraham Winkler, 40, Mayer Herskovic, 22, and Pinchas Braver, 20.
Two of the accused men will accept a misdemeanor charge while the other will admit to a felony offense at their next court date, sources said. None will face jail time under the agreement negotiated by prosecutors for Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, according to sources.
The DA's office declined to comment on the plea negotiations. The men's lawyers did not reply to requests seeking comment.
On Monday, the case was adjourned for the 14th time, court records show.
Initially, five men were arrested for their alleged role in the early morning attack on Dec. 1, 2013.
"It was a very serious crime with incredibly serious injuries caused to the victim," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters at the time.
But prosecutors dropped charges against one of the alleged assailants, Joseph Fried, 27, last December. That came after a second defendant, Aharon Hollender, 29, also had his case dismissed last March.
The case was almost closed from the outset due to pressure from the Orthodox community, the News reported earlier this month.
Cops from the 90th Precinct initially classified the attack as a misdemeanor and inexplicably marked the complaint "closed" despite several witnesses.
It only got reopened after the Patterson's mother vociferously complained and got media coverage on the case.
Police maintain the case was brought back to life after a crime analyst noticed it was prematurely closed.
As for the planned plea deal, one community activist predicted it would have damaging consequences.
"The fact that no one is going to get jail time because of this is alarming," said activist Tony Herbert. "It will have serious ramifications throughout the community, particularly the African-American community."