Officer denies sodomy allegation

November 22, 2008 7:01:46 AM PST
A police officer on Saturday vehemently denied allegations he was the main culprit in an attack on a tattoo parlor employee who claims police sodomized him during an arrest earlier this month on a subway platform in Brooklyn. A grand jury is expected to decide within the next two weeks whether the patrolman, Richard Kern, and other officers will face criminal charges stemming from the Oct. 15 incident. Jurors already have heard another officer implicate Kern, who insists he is innocent.

"I did absolutely nothing wrong," Kern said in a brief statement given to The Associated Press.

In his first public comments about the case, Kern also blasted press coverage suggesting he has a history of physically abusing people while on duty.

"It's all a complete lie," he said.

The 25-year-old officer was referring to reports about separate excessive-force lawsuits filed against him. The city settled the claims last year for a total of $50,000 - an outcome that drew recent attention when he emerged as a possible suspect in the grand jury investigation of Michael Mineo's claims.

Kern's attorney cited records showing that the Civilian Complaint Review Board cleared his client in the earlier case. The police watchdog agency found he acted within the law while arresting the two plaintiffs named in the suits on trespassing charges on Jan. 16, 2007.

The agency said some of the accusations against Kern in the 2007 case - including beating a suspect with his gun - were "unfounded." The board defines unfounded as meaning "the act did not occur."

Kern was also exonerated by the CCRB in the only other abuse complaint filed against him since he joined the force in January 2005.

The city Law Department has said that the $50,000 in settlements "were not an admission of liability nor an indication of wrongdoing on the part of the officers involved."

Police initially approached Mineo outside of a subway station because they believed he was smoking marijuana. He fled into the station and four uniformed officers wrestled him to the ground face down and handcuffed him.

Mineo, 24, a body piercer at a tattoo parlor, claims that during the struggle his pants were pulled down and one of the officers sodomized him as he screamed out in pain. He has said he believed he was violated with the antenna of a hand-held radio, and that the assailant was Officer Alex Cruz.

But a transit officer called as a witness earlier this month told the grand jury that he saw Kern wield a baton and put it near Mineo's buttocks, according to a law enforcement official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the proceedings are not public.

The New York Police Department has said witness accounts don't support Mineo's claim he was sodomized. They include that of a transit employee who was called before the grand jury.

After Mineo was given a ticket for disorderly conduct and released, he was hospitalized for several days and treated for anal injuries, according to medical records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office launched the grand jury investigation late last month when the allegations came to light. Cruz, Kern and the two other officers have since been placed on desk duty pending the outcome.

Cruz's lawyer has declined comment.

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