Sharpton wants inquiry in alleged assault

October 25, 2008 5:52:41 PM PDT
Saying police brutality is not an issue of color, the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday joined the cause of a white man who claims that a group of officers sodomized him with a walkie-talkie inside a subway station.Sharpton spent about 45 minutes Saturday at the hospital bedside of Michael Mineo, who was being treated for complications related to rectal injuries.

Mineo, a 24-year-old who works as a piercing artist at a tattoo parlor, has alleged that five officers tackled him and that one then violated him with a radio antenna after his baggy pants either fell down or were pulled off.

Sharpton called for a thorough, independent investigation. He castigated the police department for its quick denial that any assault had taken place.

"I do not know what happened, but I do know that we cannot allow the police to be the only investigative body," he said. "I don't take any accusation lightly, because I've seen worse happen and then turn out to be true."

He noted that, initially, people also had doubted the claims of Abner Louima, a black Haitian immigrant who was sodomized with a broom handle by a white officer inside a police station in 1997.

Mineo's case lacks the same racial element, but Sharpton said that was beside the point.

"Many of the critics say I only fight for black causes," Sharpton said. He dismissed that perception as misinformed and said it didn't matter to him that Mineo is white and the group of accused officers is racially mixed.

Mineo was hospitalized for four days after the Oct. 15 incident.

He was back in the hospital this weekend being treated for what his lawyers said was continued bleeding, problems urinating and severe pain.

The police department has verified that Mineo was chased and grabbed by officers at a Brooklyn subway station, but it described the encounter as a "scuffle" and said his account of being sodomized wasn't supported by civilian witnesses.

In a rare show of confidence for officers publicly accused of brutality, the department has left them on regular duty and let them keep their guns.

A department spokesman said the officers had suspected Mineo of smoking marijuana but let him go after writing him a ticket for disorderly conduct.

Mineo had a friend drive him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed as having been injured by an "anal assault," according to discharge papers reviewed by The Associated Press.

His lawyers, who appeared with Sharpton at his Harlem headquarters on Saturday, said they had interviewed three witnesses who corroborated some of his account.

Attorney Stephen Jackson said one witness, whom he would not name, verified that Mineo had blood on his pants and hands as he was led out of the station. Jackson also said a witness saw blood smeared on the window of the officers' car.

The incident is being investigated by the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

Mineo's lawyers have advised him not to speak with journalists for now, but they allowed a news photographer to be present Saturday during Sharpton's visit.

A Daily News reporter also slipped into his hospital room on Friday and talked to him briefly.

"The cops did this to me," he said from his bed. "They did this to me. I'm in so much pain."