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Five indicted in gang assault beating

Cyril Josh Barker | 5/1/2014, 3:49 p.m.

A Black man who was severely beaten in Brooklyn by a group of Hasidic Jewish men from the Williamsburg Safety Patrol Unit is coming closer to getting justice.

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office reports that five men have been arrested in connection with the beating of 23-year-old Taj Patterson. During the incident, which occurred on Dec. 1, 2013, Patterson was walking in Williamsburg before he was knocked down and beaten by a group of men.

The members of the civilian neighborhood watch group allegedly punched and kicked his face, which resulted in Patterson losing his sight in one eye. Patterson said that during the beating, the men yelled anti-gay slurs and cheered. The group said they thought Patterson was vandalizing vehicles in the neighborhood.

Members of the patrol detained Patterson while investigating neighbors’ reports that he had damaged cars; however, they did not call the police. The reports of vandalism proved to be unfounded. However, the group surrounded Patterson, preventing him from continuing his walk home.

Patterson sustained injuries to his head and body, the most serious of which was a torn retina and a broken eye socket, causing him to lose vision in his right eye. The beating ceased only when passersby arrived and threatened to take pictures of the group assaulting Patterson.

All of the assailants fled the scene, leaving Patterson on the ground injured. None of the attackers were present when the police and an ambulance responded to 911 calls.

Pinchas Braver, Joseph Fried, Mayer Herskovic, Aharon Hollender and Abraham Winkler were arrested and charged for acting in concert for gang assault in the first degree and other related charges. If convicted, they each face up to 25 years in prison.

“We simply cannot allow anyone walking on the streets of Brooklyn to be knocked to the ground, stomped and brutally beaten. Our streets must be free of such violence, and everyone must adhere to the rule of law, including these defendants,” said District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said that the indictments send a clear message that acts of vigilantism are unacceptable and are not condoned by the NYPD.

“I want to thank the NYPD’s investigators, as well as the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, for their exceptional work in helping to bring these individuals to justice,” he said.

The NYPD and the district attorney’s office launched an investigation to identify and prosecute the individuals who took part in the assault.

The case was investigated by prosecutors from the Investigations Division of the Kings County district attorney’s office, along with detectives from the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force and the Intelligence Division.

No hate crime charges were filed.

Public Advocate Letitia James led a diverse group of Williamsburg leaders, Brooklyn elected officials and LGBT rights organizations calling for justice and unity following the disturbing attack in December. She said violence should not be tolerated, no matter who is involved.

“Today’s announcement of arrests in this case demonstrate important progress in pursuing justice for the victim and a clear message that violence will never be tolerated in our city,” she said.