Two-and-a-half years after a late-night gang beating that left him partially blinded, Brooklyn man Taj Patterson is preparing to face one of his alleged assailants in court.
Mayer Herskovic, a 24-year-old Hasidic man, faces felony charges connected to the Williamsburg, Brooklyn beating in a trial that began August 29 in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Patterson is expected to testify later this week.
In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Tim Gough described a desperate scene that unfurled after 4 a.m. on December 1, 2013, according to a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.
Patterson, who is black, was walking from a subway station in Williamsburg to his home in Fort Green after a late night out in Manhattan, when a number of Orthodox Jewish men gave chase. Gough told the court that the Shomrim, a local volunteer ultra-Orthodox security group, had received false phone reports that Patterson was vandalizing cars, according to the website dnainfo.When Patterson banged on the door of a passing vehicle for help, the driver called 911, but refused to let Patterson in the car, telling the 911 operator that there were “too many of them.”
Patterson was then grabbed and beaten by a large group of Orthodox Jewish men. He suffered facial fractures, retinal damage, and was left nearly blind in one of his eyes, Gough said.
Gough told the court that DNA from a sneaker grabbed from Patterson during the melee and thrown onto a nearby roof was matched to Herskovic.
Herskovic’s attorney, Israel Fried, declined to make an opening statement.
Two other Hasidic men arrested in connection with the incident, Pinchas Braver, 22, and Abraham Winkler, 45, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in May and were sentenced in August to community service.
Also in May, police officials disciplined a Brooklyn police sergeant for closing the investigation into Patterson’s beating soon after the incident. The investigation was reopened only after others in the local precinct intervened.Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter, @joshnathankazis.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.