NYPD officers indicted in subway assault
By Tom Hays
NEW YORK — After weeks of conflicting accounts about a shocking claim of police brutality in a subway station, three patrolmen were notified Monday they will face criminal charges in the case.
Officers Richard Kern, Alex Cruz and Andrew Morales were indicted last week by a grand jury investigating allegations by a tattoo parlor worker that police sodomized him with a piece of police equipment during an arrest, according to a law enforcement official. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the indictment was sealed, declined to detail the charges.
Lawyers for Kern and Cruz said they were told their clients should surrender Tuesday for arraignment on unspecified charges. Calls to an attorney for Morales went unanswered.
The district attorney's office refused to comment Monday but was expected to officially announce the charges Tuesday.
Kern, who was implicated by another officer as the main assailant, has denied any wrongdoing.
"We don't know what the people's proof is, but as far as I'm concerned my client is not guilty," said Kern's attorney, John Patten.
Cruz's lawyer said his client also maintains his innocence. "He never observed any misconduct nor engaged in any misconduct," said the lawyer, Stuart London.
The accused officers approached Michael Mineo on Oct. 15 outside a subway station because they believed he was smoking marijuana, police said.
When he fled into the station, they and two other uniformed officers wrestled him to the ground face down and handcuffed him.
Mineo, 24, a body piercer at a tattoo parlor, claims that during the struggle his pants were pulled down and one of the officers sodomized him as he screamed out in pain. He has said he believed he was violated with the antenna of a hand-held radio, and that the assailant was Cruz.
But a transit officer called as a grand jury witness early last month testified that he saw Kern wield a baton and put it near Mineo's buttocks, according the law enforcement official. The transit officer was among the four who helped subdue Mineo, but has not been charged.
After Mineo was given a ticket for disorderly conduct and released, he was hospitalized for several days. Hospital discharge papers reviewed by The Associated Press show that upon arrival, he was diagnosed with "anal assault."
The district attorney's office launched the grand jury investigation in late October when the allegations came to light. The officers were placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the case.
The New York Police Department has said other eyewitness accounts don't support Mineo's claim he was sodomized. They include that of a transit employee who was called before the grand jury.
The incident has drawn considerable attention, with the Rev. Al Sharpton showing up at Mineo's hospital bed after he suffered complications from his injuries and was readmitted for several more days.
Police critics have compared the case to that of Abner Louima, who was beaten and sodomized with a broomstick in the bathroom of a police precinct by NYPD officers. But there are many differences between the two cases.
The 1997 case stoked racial tensions in the city, with Louima being black and the officers white. Mineo is white, and the officers are black, white and Hispanic.