Justice, Who Always Supported Police Action, Attacked By Police
Justice, Who Always Supported
Police Action, Attacked By Police
“I’ve always had profound respect for what they do,” Justice Raffaele said of the police, noting that he was “always very supportive” of the department during the more than 20 years he served ..."
Judge Says He Was Struck by a Police Officer in Queens
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Published: June 5, 2012Thomas D. Raffaele, a 69-year-old justice of the New York State Supreme Court, encountered a chaotic scene while walking down a Queens street with a friend: Two uniformed police officers stood over a shirtless man lying facedown on the pavement. The man’s hands were cuffed behind his back and he was screaming. A crowd jeered at the officers.
The judge, concerned the crowd was becoming unruly, called 911 and reported that the officers needed help.
But within minutes, he said, one of the two officers became enraged — and the judge became his target. The officer screamed and cursed at the onlookers, some of whom were complaining about what they said was his violent treatment of the suspect, and then he focused on Justice Raffaele, who was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. The judge said the officer rushed forward and, using the upper edge of his hand, delivered a sharp blow to the judge’s throat that was like what he learned when he was trained in hand-to-hand combat in the Army.
The episode, Friday morning just after midnight — in which the judge says his initial complaint about the officer was dismissed by a sergeant, the ranking supervisor at the scene — is now the focus of investigations by the police Internal Affairs Bureau and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The judge said he believed the officer also hit one or two other people during the encounter on 74th Street near 37th Road, a busy commercial strip in Jackson Heights. But he said he could not be sure, because the blow to his throat sent him reeling back and he then doubled over in pain.
“I’ve always had profound respect for what they do,” Justice Raffaele said of the police, noting that he was “always very supportive” of the department during the more than 20 years he served on Community Board 3 in Jackson Heights before becoming a judge. At one point in the early 1990s, he added, he helped organize a civilian patrol in conjunction with the police. “And this I thought was very destructive.”
The justice, who sits in the Matrimonial part in State Supreme Court in Jamaica, Queens, was elected to the Civil Court in 2005 and the State Supreme Court in 2009. Justice Raffaele was among the judges around New York State who volunteered to perform weddings on the Sunday last summer when New York’s same-sex marriage law went into effect. The judge’s description of the confrontation and its aftermath, which he provided in a series of interviews, was corroborated by two people he knows who described the encounter in separate interviews.
Justice Raffaele and one of the men, Muhammad Rashid, who runs a tutoring center near where the encounter occurred, said they were on the street at that hour because the judge had spent most of that day and night cleaning out his parents’ house and Mr. Rashid had just helped him move two tables; he donated them to the tutoring center.
The judge said his parents had just moved to Houston; he had taken them to the airport that morning and the house’s new owner was to take possession the next day.
The judge said he was in “a lot of pain” and went with Mr. Rashid to the emergency room at Elmhurst Hospital Center, where a doctor examined his throat by snaking a tube with a camera on the end through his nose and down his throat to determine whether his trachea had been damaged. The doctor, he said, found no damage; Justice Raffaele was released and told to see his personal doctor for follow-up care.
When they first came upon the crowd, the judge said, he was immediately concerned for the officers and called 911. After he made the call, he said, he saw that one of the officers — the one who he said later attacked him — was repeatedly dropping his knee into the handcuffed man’s back. .....