Mayer Herskovic, a Chassid from Brooklyn sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a 2013 group bias attack on Taj Patterson, a gay African-American fashion student, on Wednesday was found not guilty by an appellate court.
Patterson, who permanently lost the use of one eye, testified that he was attacked by a Chasidic neighborhood watch members, who beat him up brutally, believing that he had been vandalizing cars. Herskovic’s DNA was found on Patterson’s shoe.
Out of five defendants in the case, only Herskovic went to trial. Charges against Aharon Hollender and Joseph Fried were dismissed, and Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler reached no-jail plea deals, admitting to a charge of unlawful imprisonment.
According to the NY Post, in overturning the conviction and the indictment the appeals panel pointed out the accuser’s “inability to positively identify any of his attackers, the varying accounts regarding the incident, and the DNA evidence, which was less than convincing.”
“Notably, the complainant and others who testified at trial gave conflicting accounts of the assault,” the appellate judges wrote. “Among other things, the complainant testified that the person who pulled off his sneaker was the same person who shoved a thumb into his eye. He referred to this person as the ‘ringleader’ and one of the men who initially chased him. However, he also testified that the person he identified as the ringleader was not the defendant.”
According to B’Hadrei Haredim, the Chassidic community of Williamsburg invested a vast effort on behalf of Herskovic, that included dozens of local dignitaries and rabbis. The Grand Rebbe of Satmar, Rabbi Zalmen Teitelbaum, initially promised that none of the accused would spend even one day in prison.