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Judge to sue after DA drops cop assault probe

Justice Thomas Raffaele plans to file a motion of claim with the city after the Queens district attorney's office dropped an investigation into a cop who hit him in a pedestrian plaza on 37th Road in Jackson Heights.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Justice Thomas Raffaele said he was filing a notice of claim this week after Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced his office would not pursue criminal charges against an officer who Raffaele contends assaulted him in a pedestrian plaza in Jackson Heights last month.

“It’s become a tremendous process of lying here, and that shouldn’t be sustained by the police or the district attorney,” Raffaele, 69, of Jackson Heights, said in an interview.

Brown announced his office would not continue looking into the case in a statement last week.

“The people would have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the police officer intentionally and unjustifiably struck Justice Raffaele and that the judge sustained physical injury,” Brown said. “Based on our investigation, we are unable to sustain that burden.”

Brown said the district attorney’s office had referred the matter to the Police Department and the Civilian Complaint Review Board to see if any violation of NYPD rules or procedures occurred in the incident. He said his office had no opinion over whether violations took place.

Raffaele said Monday he planned to file a notice of claim, which must be filed before he can sue the city.

He is a matrimonial judge in State Supreme Court in Jamaica.

The justice alleges he was struck by an officer June 1 after midnight while 115th Precinct police were trying to arrest and subdue 47-year-old Charles Menninger at the plaza at 74th Street and 37th Road in Jackson Heights.

Raffaele said he was attempting to help calm the crowd growing around Menninger when an officer hit him so hard in the windpipe that he could not talk for a short period of time and required medical attention with his throat still hurting weeks later. He said if he had not stepped back soon enough, he could have been killed.

“When he was angry enough at the crowd, he just attacked a bunch of us,” Raffaele said of the officer.

The judge said he tried to get officers at the scene and at Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he went after the incident, to file a report but they refused.

Brown said the officers were trying to establish a safety perimeter in the course of the arrest when Raffaele was hit.

“We find that there is insufficient evidence of criminality to support a charge that the police officer acted with intent to injure or that physical injury — as defined by statute and case law — occurred,” Brown said.

The district attorney said Menninger had been trying to strike officers with a metal pipe at the time of his arrest and was also acting violently in an erratic and uncontrolled manner.

“We find that there is insufficient evidence that excessive force was utilized in restraining Mr. Menninger,” Brown said.

But Raffaele denied he was inside the police’s safety perimeter and characterized the attack as an officer out of control. He said when he saw Menninger, the man was lying on the ground, handcuffed and shirtless, and the officer was kneeing him in the back.

“It absolutely was intentional,” Raffaele said. “I was doing nothing. I was just part of the crowd.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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RC from NONE says:
Wrong! Judge Thomas Raffaele serves as a NY (Queens County) Supreme Court Judge (term ends on 2023).
May 7, 2013, 7:45 pm

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