|NY State Supreme Court Judge Thomas D. Raffaele|
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Police Brutality Against NYS Supreme Court Judge Rafaele Dismissed By Queens D.A.
After a three-month investigation, the Queens district attorney has decided not to bring criminal charges against a police officer who was accused of assaulting a State Supreme Court justice on the street in what the judge contended was an unprovoked attack, officials said Wednesday.
The episode, which occurred just after midnight on June 1 as a crowd watching two officers subdue an unruly homeless man became increasingly restive, was the subject of what District Attorney Richard A. Brown called “an extensive and thorough investigation.”
In a statement, Mr. Brown said his office “has concluded that the facts do not warrant the filing of criminal charges” because “there is insufficient evidence of criminality to support a charge that the police officer acted with the intent to injure or that physical injury (as defined by statute and case law) occurred.”
The judge, Thomas D. Raffaele, 69, who hears matrimonial cases and has been on the bench since 2006, said that he was “very shocked” and “very disappointed” by the decision. He criticized the investigation by the district attorney’s office.
Mr. Brown said in the statement that his office had also decided not to charge the officers for their conduct in subduing the homeless man, who had been chasing people with a metal pipe, concluding that necessary force was used. He also said his office found no criminality in the actions of a sergeant, who Justice Raffaele said had refused to take a complaint against the officer who struck him.
The matter, Mr. Brown said, was being referred to the Civilian Complaint Review Board and the Police Department to determine whether Police Department rules or procedures had been violated.
The officers’ names were not disclosed.
Justice Raffaele has said that during the episode, which occurred in the Jackson Heights section, he saw the crowd becoming unruly, called 911 and reported that the officers needed help.
But within minutes, he said, one of the officers subduing the man became enraged and charged toward him. He said the officer screamed and cursed at the onlookers, some of whom were complaining about what they said was the violent treatment of the man, and then he focused on Justice Raffaele, who was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. The judge has said the officer rushed forward and delivered a sharp blow to his throat, using the upper edge of his hand, a move similar to one he had learned when he was trained in hand-to-hand combat in the Army.
Mr. Brown said in his statement that the confrontation had occurred inside a perimeter the police had established around the man, to separate him from the crowd.
The judge, who was notified of the decision Wednesday morning, later said that the outcome sent a bad message to the public and the police.
“To be in a situation where somebody smashes you in the neck and just walks away from it because they are a police officer — when I did nothing to provoke this attack — I feel it’s dangerous, not just for me but for any other citizen, because officers end up feeling that they can do anything and that there will be no consequences,” Justice Raffaele said. “I think it has a bad effect on the police force because they feel there are no consequences.”
He said he believes most officers are “very honest and are out there trying to protect us, but a crazy guy like this who is out of control should not be walking around out there with a gun and a badge.”
He said of the prosecutor’s office, “I feel that from the beginning they did not make a serious effort to investigate this,” citing what he said was their failure to initially interview witnesses whose names he provided. Mr. Brown disputed Justice Raffaele’s account.