5 suspects indicted in beating of man in Williamsburg

Rob Nelson reports on the arrest of 5 Hasidic Jews who allegedly brutally beat an openly gay African-American man.
May 1, 2014 1:41:01 PM PDT
A man in beaten last December in Williamsburg met with Brooklyn prosecutors Thursday to discuss the case against five suspects indicted recently.

Taj Patterson, 23, an openly gay black man, told police a group of Hasidic men surrounded him on Flushing Avenue at 5 a.m. on Dec. 1.

The suspects, who are associated with civilian neighborhood watch group Williamsburg Safety Patrol Unit, are identified as Pinchas Braver, 19; Abraham Winkler, 39; Aharon Hollender, 28; Joseph Fried, 25; and Mayer Herskovic, 21.

According to a press statement from the Kings County district attorney, the five were indicted on gang assault charges. They were scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon. If convicted, the defendants face up to 25 years in prison each.

The statement said that the defendants chased Patterson along Flushing Avenue. Members of the patrol were investigating neighbors' reports Patterson had damaged cars and detained him. They did not call police and the vandalism reports proved to be unfounded, but when Patterson tried to get away, he was held down, and punched and kicked by the suspects.

Patterson sustained a torn retina and a broken eye socket, losing his vision in his right eye. Passersby threatened to take pictures of the group assaulting Patterson and the suspects fled.

Patterson's attorney Sanford Rubenstein released a statement the day before meeting with prosecutors. "Taj Patterson and the family of Taj Patterson will fully cooperate with Brooklyn Prosecutors in their quest to get Justice for Taj Patterson and hold criminally accountable all those who viciously attacked him," it said.

Authorities said the suspects went to Israel after the assault, and the NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force tracked them down.

Wednesday afternoon Joseph Pollack, of Williamsburg Shomrim Safety Patrol, issued a statement condemning vigilante acts.

" For over three decades the Williamsburg Shomrim Safety Patrol has acted as the eyes and ears of the community. Its members are dedicated community servants who take responsibility for protecting our neighborhood, not endangering it," it said. " Reports that all five of the defendants indicted today are members of our organization are not true, and the acts alleged in these indictments are contrary to our mission and our membership."

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