A New York judge has awarded $4.5 million to a Black gay man who claimed that Hasidic safety patrol members beat him severely in 2013 and caused him to lose sight in one eye.
“It’s been nine years,” said Taj Patterson, the New York Daily News reports. “A lot of back and forth. A lot of legal scenarios I didn’t understand. It was a long process.”
Patterson was attacked nearly ten years ago by a group of religious volunteers, the Williamsburg Safety Patrol while walking alone in Brooklyn. After years of litigation, he was awarded millions for pain and suffering.
“I was a 22-year-old kid going out for a friend’s birthday,” Patterson, a student in New York at the time, told McClatchy News in a phone interview, the Miami Herald reports. “I didn’t think my life would change so drastically so quickly.”
Years of legal battles came to an end toward the end of September.
Earlier on December 1, 2013, the safety patrol received a call that a Black person was vandalizing cars in Williamsburg, Patterson said.
He said they apparently apprehended the first Black person they saw — him.
After seeing him alone in the neighborhood, the group beat him.
“So I guess they took it upon themselves to apprehend the first Black person they saw,” Patterson told the paper.
Despite Patterson’s injuries, police closed their investigation into the incident after Patterson was sent to the hospital, according to the Herald. There were no arrests made in the incident, according to the document, which was filed in court.
New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit contacted Patterson and his mother following media coverage they were able to generate to call attention to the incident.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of five people. The court documents indicate two cases were dismissed; two pleaded guilty to misdemeanors; one was convicted of gang assault and unlawful imprisonment. That conviction was, however, overturned in 2018.
Patterson sued the city, alleging that police were “inappropriately involved” in the patrol, which the city finances at least partially.
During the September 19 hearing, Judge Miriam Sunshine said, the Daily News reports, “I am going to put it as an award in favor of Taj Patterson against all of the defendants in the sum of $4.5 million of which $3 million is for past pain and suffering and $1.5 million is for future.”
In Patterson’s view, the Herald reports, there is no way to quantify the value of an individual’s eyesight, limbs, or body.
He said, “I was violated in a very major way…But with that said, I’m glad that it’s all over…”