DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The man accused of taking part in the Shomrim Safety Patrol gang attack that blinded a fashion student was convicted Friday afternoon by a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge.
After deliberating for half an hour, Judge Danny Chun found 24-year-old Mayer Herskovic guilty of gang assault in the second degree and unlawful imprisonment in the third degree.
He was acquitted of the top charge of gang assault in the first degree.
"Today’s verdict is a testament to our determination to fully prosecute this case based on the evidence, which clearly connected this defendant to the crime. I hope that this outcome will bring a measure of comfort to Mr. Patterson and his family," Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said.
Herskovic, the only defendant who turned down a plea deal for a bench trial in the 2013 attack, will serve a minimum of three and a half years in prison, according to Chun, though he could serve up to 15.
As the judge delivered his verdict, Herskovic remained calm, barely changing his expression. As he left the courtroom, he even cracked a smile at reporters.
"The verdict is the verdict, it's upsetting and frustrating but we put our trust in Judge Chun and his wisdom," Herskovic's lawyer Israel Fried said. "He just wanted to get home as soon as possible. It's a shock. They have to process this information now and figure out what the next moves are."
Herskovic was let go following the judge's decision Friday afternoon, but was due back in court Monday to readjust his bail. Sentencing will follow.
The charges stem from a 2013 attack that occurred around 4:30 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 1 on Flushing Avenue.
Patterson had been let out of a party bus for a friend’s birthday, received a ride part of the way to his Fort Greene home and was walking down Flushing Avenue when he realized he was being pursued by one man at first, then another, then a whole group of men, he testified earlier in the trial.
He begged passing cars to let him in, trying to escaped the men but was soon pinned up against a fence and kicked, punched and dragged across the sidewalk, he said.
One of his attackers shoved a thumb in his right eye, he said.
The attack left Patterson, who has since dropped out of fashion school, battered and bruised. Despite multiple eye surgeries, he's still permanently blind in his right eye.
During the bench trial that began on Aug. 29, prosecutors lead by Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough presented evidence of a gang assault on Taj Patterson by way of videos of Taj being chased, and of a crowd of men and cars captured from afar, though the actual assault isn't depicted on video.
They presented 911 calls and eyewitness testimony from Patterson and several passersby who had interrupted the attack.
But as defense attorney Fried pointed out repeatedly, none of them could actually identify Herskovic, including Patterson himself.
Despite that, the prosecution’s strongest evidence against Herskovic was the DNA investigators found on Patterson’s sneaker, which was uncovered from a nearby rooftop.
Herskovic is the only person who will have to serve prison time for the 2013 assault.
Two other men involved in the attack — Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler — pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment charges and have to serve 150 hours community service, while charges against two other men were dropped.
Patterson currently has two pending lawsuits, one against the Shomrim Security Patrol for its involvement in the attack and one against the city in federal court regarding how the 90th Precinct handled the investigation following the incident.