Monday, May 09, 2016
EXCLUSIVE: NYPD transfers sergeant, docks vacation days for prematurely closing excessive-force investigation
An NYPD sergeant was disciplined for "poor judgment" for prematurely closing the investigation into the 2013 beating of a black man in Brooklyn by members of a Hasidic security patrol who shouted gay slurs, The Daily News has learned.
Sgt. Ivan Furda, filed the initial report on the assault of Taj Patterson, 25, who was walking down Flushing Ave. in Williamsburg on Dec. 1, 2013 when he was set upon by a gang of men shouting anti-gay slurs. Patterson suffered a broken eye socket and a torn retina that left him blind in one eye.
Furda inexplicably marked the case closed — meaning that valuable time may have been lost in cracking the case.
The closed report contained contact information for four witnesses and two license plate numbers that may have provided leads to Patterson's attackers.
Furda was eventually transferred out of the 90th precinct and docked 10 vacation days, the police source said.
"That's a pretty significant penalty," the source added.
Critics have suggested that the case was closed because of influence from member of Williamsburg's powerful Hasidic community, including the Shomrim volunteer security patrol the suspects are believed to have ties to.
"The sergeant should not have closed it out at the patrol level," said Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis, the NYPD's chief spokesman. "There is no question it was initially misclassified. It was poor judgment, but we don't believe he had any intention of covering it up."
Patterson's lawyer, Andrew Stoll, disagrees.
"The sergeant closed out the investigation for improper reasons," Stroll said. "What possible justification could there be? It's either one officer's rank racism — or a connection to the Shomrim."
About 24 hours after Patterson was beaten, the precinct's Crime Analysis sergeant in the precinct reviewed the case and concluded it had to be reopened, officials said Friday.
She took her concerns to the precinct commander the next day and he agreed that the case should be fully investigated.
The detective squad was notified and the Hate Crimes Task Force was called in. The investigation began in earnest about 48 hours after the attack, officials said.
Detectives first went to Woodhull Hospital to find Patterson, and then to Bellevue Hospital, where he was transferred, only to find he had already been sent home. Investigators were eventually able to speak to Patterson.
Over the next four months, the entire Citywide Hate Crime Task Force — some 20 detectives — worked to build enough evidence to make five arrests.
The suspects — Abraham Winkler, 39; Aharon Hollender, 28; Mayer Herskovic, 21; Joseph Fried, 25, and Pinchas Braver, 19 — were indicted in April 2014 on felony gang assault charges.
Since then, charges have been dismissed against Fried and Hollender. The others are due to appear in court in nine days.
"It was a complicated and difficult case," a police source said. "The Jewish detectives in the unit helped get shopowners in that community who may have been hesitant to cooperate to turn over their security video."
Eventually, cops obtained 16 video clips that helped break open the case.
"When the Hate Crime Task Force got the ball, they ran with it," the source said.
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