Five Hasidic men were arrested Wednesday for a disturbing attack against a gay black man in a case initially investigated as a bias attack, police sources said.
Fashion student Taj Patterson, 22, has said he was headed to his Fort Greene home after a night of partying last December when over a dozen ultra-Orthodox men assaulted him on Flushing Ave. in Williamsburg while shouting anti-gay epithets.
Aharon Hollender, 28, Abraham Winkler, 39, Mayer Herskovic, 21, Pinchas Braver, 19, and Joseph Fried, 25, were charged with gang assault and other counts, but not with any hate crimes, authorities said Wednesday.
“We simply cannot allow anyone walking on the streets of Brooklyn to be knocked to the ground, stomped and brutally beaten,” said Brooklyn district attorney Kenneth Thompson.
The group, at least two of whom belonged to a volunteer patrol called Shomrim, were looking for someone who vandalized cars in the area and stopped Patterson, prosecutors said.
Even though the vandalism report was unfounded, they allegedly started pummeling the victim, authorities said.
“These indictments send a clear message that acts of vigilantism are unacceptable and cannot be condoned by the NYPD,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement.
Patterson suffered a broken eye socket, a torn retina, blood clotting, and cuts and bruises to his knee and ankles.
The main instigator kicked him in the face, yelling “stay down, f----t, stay the f--- down,” as others cheered, Patterson recalled.
“And that’s really all I can remember of that,” he had told the Daily News.
The victim couldn’t be reached Wednesday.
“This is news to us,” said a man who answered the phone at Patterson’s home when asked about the arrests.
All five suspects were arraigned in Brooklyn Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon and released on bails ranging from $50,000 and $25,000. They face up to 25 years in prison if Prosecutor Charles Guria identified Herskovic as the main attacker and sources said Winkler and Hollander are Shomrim members while the others are mere “wannabes.”
“This was a media frenzy and a community frenzy so some of the facts have been skewed,” said defense lawyer George Farkas, who represents Winkler.
This isn’t the first brush with the law for at least one of those in custody: Fried was busted in November 2012 for snapping a photo of a sex abuse victim testifying during a high-profile trial.
While charges against a co-defendant weirdly named Lemon Juice were recently dismissed, the case against Fried, who works for the official newspaper of the Satmar sect, is still pending..
With Thomas Tracy
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