Grand jury to probe alleged NYPD assault

October 30, 2008 8:05:45 AM PDT
Prosecutors on Monday said they would convene a grand jury to investigate and decide whether to bring charges against four police officers who have been accused of attacking and sodomizing a man with a walkie-talkie at a subway station. The grand jury signals that prosecutors are taking the man's claims seriously enough to go forward with the investigation. It is not known how long it will take the grand jury to act on the matter or what charges the officers could face.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said in a statement that he decided to call the grand jury based on his early investigation and a review of medical evidence in the case of Michael Mineo, who claims he was assaulted Oct. 15.

The New York Police Department, which disputes the allegations and strongly denies the man was sodomized, welcomed the investigation.

"With differing accounts provided by witnesses and the complainant, we welcome efforts by District Attorney Hynes to establish the facts through an investigative grand jury," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in his first public comment on the case.

The grand jury came as new details emerged about the investigation.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that a baton and a radio antenna taken from the locker of one of the officers was tested and found Monday to be negative for fecal matter. It is unclear if DNA testing had been performed to see if there was blood on the antenna. The official spoke on the condition of anonmyity because the investigation is ongoing.

Hospital discharge papers reviewed by The Associated Press show that upon arrival at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center on Oct. 15, Mineo was diagnosed with "anal assault." The hospital discharge papers said Mineo arrived at the hospital complaining he had been assaulted by police with a foreign object.

Mineo was discharged Oct. 19, but was readmitted last Friday with lingering pain. His attorneys say he has an abcess in his abdomen that must be drained.

"Michael's main concern, he says in one word: 'Justice,"' said his attorney Kevin Mosley. "No one is saying all police are bad, but these officers must be held accountable."

Mineo, a tattoo parlor worker, said he was on his way to work and was outside a Brooklyn subway station when he was approached by the officers because they believed he was smoking marijuana. He fled into the subway station and the officers jumped him from behind, handcuffed him and wrestled him to the ground, he said.

Mineo told his lawyers that he felt a foot on his neck as the officers pummeled him, then violated him with the walkie-talkie.

The lawyers say the officers took the bleeding Mineo into a police car, wrote him a disorderly conduct ticket and left him at the subway station.

New York City police deny Mineo's charges, saying he was arrested for smoking pot in an encounter described as a "scuffle."

Mineo spoke with prosecutors from his hospital bed the day after he claims the incident took place, but has not spoken again with them. The case is also being investigated by the police department, but the department must wait until the district attorney's office finishes before interviewing the officers.

The accusations were reminiscent of the 1997 assault of Abner Louima, who was beaten and sodomized with a broomstick in a police precinct by officers in one of the most notorious cases of police brutality in NYPD history.

Mineo and his attorneys say there were five officers involved, but apparently one officer's involvement was minor so the district attorney is focusing on four officers.

Mineo, 24, was orphaned as a child after his parents died from illness, and lived with his grandparents until they died. He has no family, according to his attorney.