The verdict for the final man attached to a Hasidic gang attack against a gay man has been overturned because of changing laws concerning forensics and lack of other evidence.
On December 1, 2013, Taj Patterson, then 22, was walking home through the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn after leaving a party and separating from his friends.
According to the Brooklyn Eagle, Patterson was then attacked by a group of men. Patterson was bruised and bloodied by the end of the attack. One man even shoved his thumb up Patterson’s eye and permanently blinded him.
Months later, five Hasidic Jewish men, Abraham Winkler, 43; Aharon Hollander, 32; Joseph Fried, 29; and Pinchas Braver, 23, were connected to the crime. They were then charged with gang assault, assault, and unlawful imprisonment.
After years of court battles, four of the five men were let off relatively easy. Two of the men pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and the other two had their charges completely dropped.
Then in 2017, Mayer Herskovic went to trial.
During the court hearings, Patterson admitted that he never saw the faces of his attackers besides a man whom Patterson called the “ringleader.”
Despite that, Herskovic was sentenced to four years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun after his DNA was found on Patterson’s sneaker.
Now according to the New York Times, the Second Judicial Department Appellate Division has overturned that conviction because Patterson couldn’t identify his attackers and the DNA evidence was “less than convincing”
“The OCME criminologist testifying at the trial admitted that in developing high-sensitivity testing, OCME ‘tweaked the protocols’ of DNA testing. Based on the high-sensitivity testing, OCME found that the mixture was indicative of a two-person mixture,” the four judges wrote.
“Mayer is overjoyed,” Herskovic’s lawyer, Donna Aldea, said. “The decision means that, for all intents and purposes, he is innocent.”
Now it seems unlikely that anyone will ever serve long-term prison time for the attack on Patterson. That said, Patterson’s lawyer, Andrew Stoll, filed a lawsuit two years ago against the NYPD and the city for giving his attackers “favorable and preferential treatment.”
“Our civil suit continues against the city for the ‘get out of jail free’ cards it hands out to the ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn,” said Stoll.
That lawsuit is still pending.