Criminal Justice

Judge Who Accused Cop of Striking Him Sees Cover-up in Refusal to Prosecute

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A New York judge who says a police officer struck him after apparently mistaking him for a heckler is blasting Queens District Attorney Richard Brown for refusing to prosecute.

Judge Thomas Raffaele claims Brown is orchestrating a cover-up, the New York Law Journal reports. A press release explaining the refusal to prosecute is full of falsehoods, Raffaele told the publication. “Everything they say is a lie.”

Raffaele has said the incident occurred on June 1 when a crowd had gathered as officers were making an arrest. One officer was ramming his knee into the back of a screaming handcuffed man, and the crowd was jeering, according to Raffaele’s account. One officer appeared to be getting angry, and he ran toward the crowd and began hitting people, Raffaele said. Raffaele said he was the first one hit in “a full-force, open-hand blow to the front of my throat.”

According to the DA’s press release (PDF), the suspect, 47-year-old Charles Menninger, was chasing people with a metal pipe . “All of the credible evidence supports the findings that Mr. Menninger was acting in a violent, erratic and uncontrolled manner by attempting to strike two transit police officers with a metal pipe and that the officers used necessary force to subdue an individual who they determined to be an emotionally disturbed person,” the release said. “We find that there is insufficient evidence that excessive force was utilized in restraining Mr. Menninger.”

The alleged officer assault against Raffaele occurred in a safety perimeter established to separate Menninger from the growing crowd, the press release says. “We find that there is insufficient evidence of criminality to support a charge that the police officer acted with intent to injure or that physical injury (as defined by statute and case law) occurred,” the release says.

Raffaele disagrees with that assessment. “It was absolutely criminal,” Raffaele told the New York Law Journal, “and I think a jury would have very little difficulty, if they heard the testimony, determining who was telling the truth and who was lying.”

He said investigators didn’t contact his witnesses until he complained. “Given the way the officers lied to cover up what this guy did who hit us, I have to wonder if the same cover-up attitude extends to the detectives in the DA’s office,” he told the New York Law Journal. “It does not seem to me that the DA wanted the investigation in this case to go forward.”

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