Three NYPD officers charged in subway sodomy case
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New York City Police officer Richard Kern, front center, exits Brooklyn State Supreme Court following his arraignment, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, in New York.
By Tom Hays
NEW YORK — A police officer warned a tattoo parlor worker that if he reported being sodomized with a baton during an arrest at a New York subway station, officers would lock him up for a felony, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The threat was among details to emerge as the Brooklyn district attorney announced an indictment charging Officer Richard Kern and two other patrolmen with felonies.
Kern, 25, was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and assault after the Oct. 15 confrontation. Fellow Officers Alex Cruz and Andrew Morales were charged with hindering prosecution and official misconduct for allegedly covering up the crime.
All three pleaded not guilty Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn. As Cruz and Morales were released without bail and left the courtroom, accuser Michael Mineo glared at them and clapped sarcastically. Kern left minutes later after posting $15,000 bail.
"I relive this every day. I'm still in pain," Mineo, a 24-year-old body piercer, said outside the courtroom. "No one should go through this."
The Associated Press does not usually name people alleging sexual abuse, but Mineo has come forward publicly to detail his ordeal, speaking to the news media and allowing himself to be photographed and captured on video.
Kern's attorney, John Patten, told reporters that civilian witnesses standing only a few feet away from the officers and Mineo never saw a sex assault, and he predicted his client would prevail at trial.
"I represent a very decent young man," he said.
Lawyers for Cruz and Morales denied their clients were part of a cover-up.
"They don't even have a paper-thin case. They have no case," said Cruz's attorney, Stuart London.
At a news conference earlier Tuesday, prosecutors for the first time confirmed reports of perhaps the strongest piece of evidence against Kern: DNA recovered from the baton matched that of the victim, they said. They also said two officers had given grand jury testimony that supported Mineo's allegations.
But District Attorney Charles Hynes was at a loss to explain why a skinny police officer who could pass for a teenager would commit a sex crime while on duty in the middle of the day in a busy subway station.
"I can't deal with a motive," Hynes said. "I just don't know."
In the most detailed narrative to date of the incident, prosecutors said Kern and Morales spotted Mineo outside the subway station smoking marijuana. When they sought to stop him, he fled into the station, jumped a turnstile, ran toward the platform and hurdled another turnstile before he was pinned down, handcuffed near a token booth and searched for drugs, they said.
With Mineo in a "helpless position" with his pants down, Kern took out a retractable baton and shoved it into the victim's buttocks, said Assistant District Attorney Charles Guria. The baton pierced Mineo's underwear, tore his rectum and drew blood, the prosecutor said.
To cover his tracks and with the other officers' knowledge, Kern wrote Mineo "a bogus summons" that was purposely backdated so it would be invalid, then warned him to keep quiet or face a felony, prosecutors said.
Police initially questioned Mineo's account and allowed the officers to stay on duty. But the case gained momentum in late October after Mineo's lawyers went public with his allegations and the district attorney launched a grand jury investigation.
If convicted, Kern could face up to 25 years in prison; the others could face up to four years.
Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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