Cops facing charges for leaving teen at swamp

Stems from Halloween incident on Staten Island
March 4, 2008 10:31:11 AM PST
Two police officers turned themselves in today for punishing a teenager after a Halloween prank. They're accused of driving him to a swamp on Staten Island, and leaving him there, to teach him a lesson. We're told the officers surrendered this morning.

Eyewitness News reporter Lisa Colagrossi has the latest.

The 33-count indictment lays out excruciating detail from Halloween night where two officers are accused of rounding up a 14-year-old boy, handcuffing him, beating him and leaving him in desolate field to fend for himself.

"They thought it was a joke, that was no joke, that was a 14-year-old kid," grandmother, Evelyn Boyd said.

Stripped of the their badges and guns, 29-year-old Richard Danese and 28-year-old Thomas Elliassen, now face a lengthy criminal indictment. Prosecutors say the officers were trying to teach the boy a lesson after he supposedly threw eggs at a car near their precinct. But Moreno's attorney said the boy was throwing eggs at a friend.

The officers were charged with unlawful imprisonment - punishable by up to four years in prison - endangering the welfare of a child, harassment, attempted assault and several felony and misdemeanor counts of falsifying records.

"The district attorney ram-rodded this case through the grand jury so it can come out and he can say that he indicted two police officers," Danese attorney John Tynan said.

Elliassen attorney John Patten called the indictment "highly political." "You can't play politics with people's lives," he said.

But the family of Reyshawn says they are disappointed the grand jury did not consider more serious charges like kidnapping, like kidnapping and bias crimes.

"This is a cover-up, a whitewash, a minimization of very serious events involving a child,"

According to the indictment Moreno was picked up by officers after throwing eggs at cars. He was placed in handcuffs, stripped down to shorts, and left in a field. He made his way to a shopping center to call his family, that says he is still traumatized.

"He had is dignity stripped of him, he was beaten...I mean he's a child," said Reyshawn's mother, Telisa Hazel.

"They say racism doesn't exist anymore..racism exists to the fullest, it's just it is in different ways," Reyshawn's father said.

Reyshawn Moreno was not in court today, he was in school, where his parents say that's exactly where he should be.

The officers are due back in court in April. They are free on their own recognizance.

Last month, Officer Danese was also accused of trying to get information from Moreno's stepfather, James Hazel.

He was charged with accessing a confidential database, which contained personal information about Hazel.

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