Police arrested four of five ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who prosecutors say are members of a volunteer Williamsburg neighborhood patrol and attacked a gay man in the neighborhood early one morning in December.
The district attorney’s office is charging the men with gang assault and unlawful imprisonment for the beating that was accompanied by a barrage of anti-gay slurs, according to the New York Post, and left fashion student Taj Patterson’s right eye socket fractured and his retina torn, according to prosecutors. The charges carry a maximum of 25 years in prison and the borough’s top legal eagle said the stiff sentences should send a message to maniacs to contain their rage.
“We simply cannot allow anyone walking on the streets of Brooklyn to be knocked to the ground, stomped, and brutally beaten,” said Thompson. “Our streets must be free of such violence and everyone must adhere to the rule of law, including these defendants.”
The incident began when Patterson, a Fort Greene resident, had left a party and was walking on Flushing Avenue at 5 am, according to the indictment. The quarrelsome quintet chased Patterson down, detained him, and accused him of damaging cars in the area, prosecutors said. There was nothing to the allegation, but the group surrounded Patterson and was joined by 10 more people, Thompson’s office alleges. When Patterson tried to flee, the men held him down and kicked and punched the living daylights out of him, the indictment states, while yelling homophobic curses at him, the Post said.
The alleged mob attack only let up when the driver of a B57 bus pulled over and started to snap pictures, according to the Post, which reported that the NYPD’s Hate Crimes was eyeing the attack. Thompson did not charge the five suspects with hate crimes.
The Williamsburg Safety Patrol, a volunteer neighborhood-watch group of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish type referred to as Shomrim, denied that the five accused are members, but the wording of its statement left open the possibility that some are.
“Reports that all five of the defendants indicted today are members of our organization are not true, and the acts alleged in these indictments are contrary to our mission and our membership,” said organization spokesman Joseph Pollack. “The Williamsburg Shomrim Safety Patrol condemns all acts of vigilantism in any form and treats all members of the greater community with the dignity and respect they all deserve.”
One neighborhood activist and member of the insular Satmar sect was quick to defend the Williamsburg Shomrim in general, though he emphasized he knew nothing about who was being charged.
“The Shomrim have been doing a marvelous job for 30 or 40 years,” said Simon Weiser, a member of Community Board 1. “They would never get involved in this kind of practice.”
An ultra-Orthodox rabbi issued a statement condemning the beating, though it did not mention the defendants’ purported Shomrim ties.
“The bedrock of the Williamsburg community is tolerance for one and another,” said Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn. “Any act of violence by any individual, against anyone, for whatever reason, is condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
Cops are still after a fifth suspect in the scary smackdown.
Patterson could not be reached for comment.