Taj Patterson, after suffering an assault by a gang of men in Williamsburg in December 2013.
The black gay man who was brutally beaten by a mob in 2013 in Williamsburg linked Mayer Herskovic, whose DNA was found on the victim’s sneaker, to the crime by testifying that the man who punched and kicked him in the face and gouged his eye later pulled off his sneaker and tossed it onto a nearby roof.
“The same man punched me in the face, shoved his thumb in my eye, and kicked me in the face,” Taj Patterson said in Brooklyn Supreme Court when cross-examined by Israel Fried, Herskovic’s attorney, on August 31.
Earlier that day when questioned by Tim Gough, the assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case against Herskovic, Patterson said, “I recall the same man took my sneaker off and chucked it. He lifted my leg and he threw it.”
Victim cannot ID defendant, but describes behavior linked to DNA evidence
Neither Patterson nor any other witness has identified Herskovic as one of the attackers, and the victim also failed to identify him in an earlier photo line-up. Patterson was also sketchy in places about who was involved in the attack and exactly how it progressed. But his recounting was supported by several videos that were played in court.
Patterson testified that he was dropped off early in the morning in Williamsburg following a party on December 1, 2103. He had four drinks over four hours at the party. His home is about a 15-minute walk from where the attack happened on Flushing Avenue. As he was walking, he stepped into the street to avoid garbage on the sidewalk. One video showed him walking in the street.
Patterson said that he heard someone yelling “something negative” and he began to run. He was pursued by three men, he said. Several videos show Patterson being chased by three men, one of whom appears to be dressed in the uniform of a community patrol organized by the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
Other videos show that perhaps a half-dozen vehicles, including one minivan with flashing lights, joined the pursuit. Flushing Avenue is a two-lane street and some of the cars can be seen speeding by other cars and even veering into the lane for traffic moving in the opposite direction as they chase Patterson.
In the videos, Patterson can be seen twice trying to halt cars on the avenue as he sought protection from the mob. The 25-year-old stopped near the intersection of Flushing Avenue and Spencer Street when he saw a large group of men in front of him.
“I recall there were 20 people coming for me,” Patterson said. “Every car I stopped wasn’t helping me so I gave up.”
Patterson said he was pressed against a fence with a man holding each of his arms while three men stood in front of him and the rest of the mob stood in a circle around them blocking his view of the street. The man in the middle of the three, who Patterson called the “ringleader,” began to beat him. That man punched him in the face, jabbed his thumb into Patterson’s eye, and then kicked him in the face after Patterson was knocked to the ground, he testified. As he lay on the ground being kicked, his sneaker was pulled off and tossed on to the roof of 475 Flushing Avenue.
“When I was kicked in the face, I was told to ‘Stay down you fucking faggot,’” Patterson said. He suffered a broken eye socket, bruises, abrasions, and was left blind in one eye.
On August 30, Evelyn Keys, a city bus driver, testified that her bus was halted on Flushing Avenue by cars blocking the way. She saw “a group of Hasidic Jews” standing in a circle on the sidewalk, but her view into the circle was blocked by the men. She saw one of them toss something on to the roof of an adjacent building. A criminalist from the city medical examiner’s office testified that day that Herskovic’s DNA was found on a sneaker that police recovered from the roof. Patterson identified the sneaker as his when he testified.
Two other men pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment in the attack. Charges against another two were dropped. Herskovic refused a deal, and his trial began on August 29. He faces multiple counts of unlawful imprisonment, assault, gang assault, and menacing.
Judge Danny Chun is presiding over the non-jury trial.
Patterson’s memory may be an issue. He testified that he could not remember what was said before the start of the pursuit, but that the tone was “negative.”
Chun asked, “You can’t remember anything?”
The community patrol that is implicated in the attack on Patterson has received a half million dollars from the City Council since 2010, the Daily News reported on June 14. Patterson filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city in June. Also named in the lawsuit are three of the police officers who were involved in the initial investigation of the attack, the five men who were charged and a sixth man, the Williamsburg Safety Patrol, and the Shmira Volunteer Patrol. In the lawsuit, Patterson charged that the city and the police department have long privileged these patrols and the Satmar community they serve.