Revolution Online, December 29, 2008

From a Reader:

Standing Up to NYPD Torture: The Defiance of Michael Mineo

Dear Revolution:

On December 10, 3 NYPD cops were indicted by a Grand Jury for a chilling incident of police torture that occurred on October 15 of this year.

In the early after noon on that day, Michael Mineo, a 24-year-old tattoo artist on his way to work was standing outside the Prospect Park subway station when he was approached by 2 plainclothes cops who claimed they saw him smoking a joint. According to Mineo, the situation escalated and he fled into the subway station, with 5 cops now chasing him. They tackled him near the token booth on this crowded platform, beat him while he was face down and handcuffed him. Then Mineo says that while one cop held his shoulders and another his feet, a third pulled his pants down.

The Associated Press reported that the prosecutor’s account of the incident includes the following: "With Mineo in a 'helpless position' with his pants down, Kern [one of the cops] 'took out a retractable baton and shoved it into the victim's buttocks… The baton pierced Mineo's underwear, tore his rectum and drew blood.'"

Police ignored Mineo's complaints even when he showed them blood on his hand which he said was from his rectum. The torturers then wrote Mineo a back-dated [i.e., a deliberately invalid] summons for disorderly conduct and warned Mineo repeatedly that if he told anyone or went to the hospital he would be charged with a felony.

Then police released Mineo, most likely confident that this atrocity would never see the light of day, just like so many other beatings that are part of the daily routine for the notorious NYPD, especially when they are in the neighborhoods of poor and oppressed people.

Mineo was severely injured—he was hospitalized for 4 days and has been back to the hospital twice since because of the pain and blood in his urine.

But in spite of the determined efforts of the police department, this one did not stay hidden. At 7:30 p.m. on the day of the attack, Brookdale Hospital (where Mineo was being treated) called the Brooklyn District Attorneys office to report that a patient appeared to have been sodomized by the police. From there word of it began to get out to the media—although this case has never been blasted out there widely as it should have been.

The response of the NYPD was as outrageous as it was predictable: on October 24 Paul Browne, the Department's chief spokesman, said: "Police officers grappled with an individual who they observed smoking marijuana after he had fled and resisted being handcuffed. His assertion that he was sodomized is not supported by independent civilian witnesses on the scene." Police Chief Kelly talked about "the disparity in the statements of the witnesses and the statement of the complainant."

This was a blatant lie. According to Charles Hynes, the Brooklyn District Attorney, the first civilian witnesses interviewed by the police—before Browne and Kelly made their statements—said that they saw Mineo held down by several cops, saw his buttocks exposed, and heard him scream that he was being violated. This completely corroborates Mineo's account. And yet the NYPD kept repeating this same story for 19 days, still trying to suppress the story which they knew to be true.

The fact that they did not succeed is due in no small part to the tremendous courage shown by Mineo himself and the support he got from friends and co-workers as well as his attorneys. Right from the start Mineo spoke out defiantly, in spite of the threats from the cops who brutalized him and tried to break his spirit with the savage nature of their attack. He identified his attackers to the DA, and described the attack and the severity of his injuries in detail to the media. He was in court when the cops were finally arraigned on December 10 and gave a victory punch to the air when the arraignment ended. Mineo said he was glad they were indicted and that "I looked them straight in the face, they couldn't look at me."

Mineo's friends and co-workers—mainly youth or young adults of different nationalities who work at or hang around the tattoo parlor he works at—have had his back as well. It was a co-worker who took him to the hospital to begin with, and people have been watching out for his physical health and in other ways. They have also spoken out against this crime: co-worker Keasha Brown was quoted as saying of the police: "These people are dangerous. It makes me sick." Commenting on the fact that that even after it was clear the attack had taken place the torturers were still on active duty (until Nov. 3) one of Mineo's attorneys stated, "It's alarming that you have police officers out there who, for all intents and purposes, are guilty of gang rape."

There is a lot to learn from the spirit all of these people have shown in the face of this brutal act!

In the face of this and mounting evidence, the police account fell apart completely. First one cop who had been at the scene of the assault, and then another, came forward and gave testimony corroborating Mineo's account. (The Brooklyn DA called these cops “heroes”—NO—they took part in or allowed the attack, and were silent for weeks, only coming forward to save their own hides.) Then some of Mineo's DNA was found on Kern's baton.

FINALLY, on November 3 (19 days after the attack) the cops were put on "modified duty" instead of "active duty." Indictments came down on December 10. But as we have learned from past cases such as Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo, just because there is a mountain of evidence is no reason for people to expect justice in the Courts—time and again the black-robed branch of the capitalist state has covered the tracks and set free the murders-in-blue who they recognize as the front line defenders of their whole system.

Meanwhile, the police and their supporters in the media have moved into their back-up plan when their crimes are forced to the light of day—they have started talking about how this is an “aberration.” Agence France-Presse says that this incident has “embarrassed a police department that takes pride in having vastly reduced the city’s once uncontrollable crime.” The Daily News highlights that Kern was young and relatively “inexperienced.” The Associated Press says that the district attorney is “at a loss to explain why a skinny police officer who could pass for a teenager would commit a sex crime while on duty in the middle of the day in a busy subway station.”

Yes, that is a very good question. But the answer is no mystery. In 1997 4 Brooklyn cops took a Haitian man, Abner Louima, into the bathroom of a busy precinct house and sodomized him with a broomstick; dozens of cops knew about it, the main perpetrator openly bragged about it, but it was only the courage of a hospital employee revealing it to the media (after NYPD Internal Affairs ignored her complaint) and thousands of Haitians and other people took to the street that the system was compelled to bring 4 of them to trial, leading to exactly 2 convictions.

Since then the police have killed dozens of people and beaten and harassed thousands without being punished or for the most part even noticed except by the oppressed people. More than a year after the Abner Louima incident, Nat Hentoff reported in the Village Voice that "Public advocate Mark Green has discovered that hundreds of police brutality cases sent by the CCRB [Civilian Complaint Review Board] to the police department as 'substantiated' have been summarily dismissed by the NYPD" (Village Voice, Oct. 5, 1999). Since then unarmed Amadou Diallo died from 39 shots’ unarmed Sean Bell died in a hail of 50 police bullets and all the cops got off—and these were the highly public cases that even went to trial!

Kern and his crew must have just assumed that in a city like this, in a country where torture of “the bad guys” has been legitimized and made legal to the point where people barely talk about it anymore, that he could just stop hiding it altogether and carry out his crimes in the middle of a crowd.

What this shows us is not the aberrant act of a deranged individual, but the increasingly virulent culture of brutality, rape, torture and murder that prevails among the enforcers of capitalist order, and their rational confidence that the courts will back them up no matter what they do. It shows us, in other words, the REALITY of state violence against the people, and the need to further tear the mask of legitimacy from these enforcers and the system they represent.

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