Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler, two Hasidic men involved in the 2013 unlawful imprisonment and vicious beating of Taj Patterson, a then-22-year-old gay black man, are now attempting to shirk their sentence
Braver and Winkler, who pled guilty to unlawful imprisonment in a plea bargain, were sentenced to only three years probation, a $1400 restitution payment and 150 hours of community service. As a condition of the plea bargain, the prosecutor recommended that their community service take place in a “culturally diverse neighborhood.” Instead, Braver and Winkler have told the court they want to do their community service at Chai Lifeline, an organization that exclusively serves the Jewish community. The beating, which took place in December of 2013, was particularly brutal. Five Hasidic men, some of whom were associated with the Shomrim “security patrol”, attacked Patterson as he was walking down a street in Williamsburg. They forced him to his knees, screaming anti-gay slurs, and threw him to the ground, where they stomped and kicked him until the driver of a B57 bus saw the attack and pulled over. The bus driver took pictures of the fresh wounds, which included a broken eye-socket and torn retina that left Patterson permanently blind in his right eye. The bus driver recalls Patterson writhing in pain, repeating “I can’t see…I can’t breathe.” Finally, he lost consciousness. In April 2014, police finally arrested Abraham Winkler, 39; Aharon Hollender, 28; Mayer Herskovic, 21; Joseph Fried, 25; and Pinchas Braver, 19, all of whom either were members of or had ties to the Williamsburg Shomrim. They were indicted on felony gang assault charges; the Brooklyn D.A. ultimately did not charge any of the five with hate crimes. Throughout the course of the investigation, two of the five — Hollender in 2014, and Fried in 2015 — had the charges against them dropped. In both cases, it was because a key witness decided not to testify. The remaining arrestees were offered a plea deal, and two of them took it. The deal leaves them with a much gentler fate than what they would face if they went to trial: up to 25 years in prison for their felony charges.