A 24-year-old Hasidic man was convicted in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Friday in connection with a December 2013 gang beating that left a gay black man blind in one eye.
Taj Patterson was beset by a mob of Orthodox Jewish men late one winter night on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prosecutors say that he was beaten by up to 20 men, who punched him, kicked him, stomped him, and poked his eye.
Now, Mayer Herscovic faces up to 15 years in prison following convictions of second-degree gang assault, first-degree unlawful imprisonment, and menacing. He was acquitted of first-degree gang assault, the most serious charge he faced.
“Today’s verdict is a testament to our determination to fully prosecute this case based on the evidence, which clearly connected this defendant to the crime,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson in a statement about the conviction. “I hope that this outcome will bring a measure of comfort to Mr. Patterson and his family.”
Patterson, who dropped out of fashion school after the brutal attack, testified in gruesome detail at the trial about the late-night assault. “Once the thumb was in my eye, I started screaming, and they just kept punching me. I was tripped, they were kicking me, then dragging me on my knees,” Patterson said in court.
Audiotape played in court of 911 calls placed by witnesses to the attack describe a frightening scene. “There was like 20 Jewish men and one black kid,” a woman said in one call. “I don’t want to go back there, because there was too many of them.”
According to an NYPD detective who testified at the bench trial, residents of the Hasidic neighborhood of Williamsburg were unwilling to help police in their investigation of the beating, lying to detectives who asked for surveillance video that might further the investigation. In order to get access to the tapes, police had a Jewish detective pose as a robbery victim and ask for surveillance videos on his own.
Two other Hasidic men pled guilty in connection with the beating in May, while charges against another two men were dismissed. Police also disciplined a Brooklyn sergeant for initially closing the investigation into the beating.
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Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.