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Boro judge recovering from blow

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

A Queens Supreme Court judge is still recuperating after he said a NYPD officer attacked him and other bystanders watching an arrest last week in Jackson Heights, sparking multiple investigations into the incident.

Justice Thomas Raffaele, 69, said he was interviewed by officers from the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, the Queens district attorney and the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates complaints against officers, about the incident that occurred just after midnight June 1.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment and it was unclear whether the officer had been placed on modified duty, although Raffaele did not believe the officer was taken off the streets.

“I just have a small amount of pain and discomfort of my throat and the back of my neck,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “I thought that would go away by now.”

In an earlier interview with TimesLedger Newspapers after the incident, Raffaele described what he said happened near the corner of 37th Road and 74th Street in Jackson Heights.

Raffaele and a friend, Mohammad Rashid, were walking through the neighborhood after a long day of cleaning out the Bayside home of Raffaele’s parents, who had recently moved to Houston.

The pair came across a jeering crowd surrounding two officers in the process of arresting a shirtless man.

Raffaele observed one of the officers repeatedly kneeing the handcuffed man in the back, despite growing unrest from the crowd and pleas from a woman who said she was a registered nurse and produced her identification, he said.

The justice then said he called 911 to get more officers on hand to calm things down, but shortly afterward one of the officers knocked him backward with a blow to the throat.

The officer who had been kneeing the suspect in the back lunged at the judge and used the area between the thumb and forefinger to jab him in the windpipe, Raffaele said.

“The blow was so hard,” said Raffaele, who sits in Matrimonial Court in Jamaica. “The way he hit me, he could have killed me.”

After hitting the judge, Raffaele said the officer hit several other bystanders before more NYPD arrived.

Raffaele regained his voice and tried to file a complaint with a ranking officer at the scene, but the sergeant told him that he did not know which officer the judge was referring to, and no one else had seen the assault, he said.

The judge saw the officer in question walking away from the scene and took his photo, he said. Subsequently, another sergeant took a complaint report, the judge said.

“Psychologically, it was a very traumatic thing to happen,” Raffaele said. “This officer’s rage is so out of control, it is dangerous for him to be in that situation.”

Raffaele pointed out that he gained a strong appreciation for the NYPD during his time as head of Community Board 3, which covers Jackson Heights. He also participated in a civilian patrol in the neighborhood, but he thinks the officer who allegedly assaulted him is a danger to the public and a blemish on the reputation of the force.

The incident occurred in the 115th Precinct, which has the third-highest rate of stop-and-frisk in the city, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union data released earlier this year.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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