Justice Thomas D. Raffaele said a police officer in Queens
The judge, concerned the crowd was becoming unruly, called 911 and reported that the officers needed help.
But within minutes, he said, one of the two officers became enraged — and the judge became his target. The officer screamed and cursed at the onlookers, some of whom were complaining about what they said was his violent treatment of the suspect, and then he focused on Justice Raffaele, who was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. The judge said the officer rushed forward and, using the upper edge of his hand, delivered a sharp blow to the judge’s throat that was like what he learned when he was trained in hand-to-hand combat in the Army.
The episode, Friday morning just after midnight — in which the judge says his initial complaint about the officer was dismissed by a sergeant, the ranking supervisor at the scene — is now the focus of investigations by the police Internal Affairs Bureau and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The judge said he believed the officer also hit one or two other people during the encounter on 74th Street near 37th Road, a busy commercial strip in Jackson Heights. But he said he could not be sure, because the blow to his throat sent him reeling back and he then doubled over in pain.
“I’ve always had profound respect for what they do,” Justice Raffaele said of the police, noting that he was “always very supportive” of the department during the more than 20 years he served on Community Board 3 in Jackson Heights before becoming a judge. At one point in the early 1990s, he added, he helped organize a civilian patrol in conjunction with the police. “And this I thought was very destructive.”
The justice, who sits in the Matrimonial part in State Supreme Court in Jamaica, Queens, was elected to the Civil Court in 2005 and the State Supreme Court in 2009. Justice Raffaele was among the judges around New York State who volunteered to perform weddings on the Sunday last summer when New York’s same-sex marriage law went into effect. The judge’s description of the confrontation and its aftermath, which he provided in a series of interviews, was corroborated by two people he knows who described the encounter in separate interviews.
The judge said his parents had just moved to Houston; he had taken them to the airport that morning and the house’s new owner was to take possession the next day.
When they first came upon the crowd, the judge said, he was immediately concerned for the officers and called 911. After he made the call, he said, he saw that one of the officers — the one who he said later attacked him — was repeatedly dropping his knee into the handcuffed man’s back.
His actions, the judge said, were inflaming the crowd, some of whom had been drinking. But among others who loudly expressed their concern, he said, was a woman who identified herself as a registered nurse; she was calling to the officer, warning that he could seriously hurt the unidentified man, who an official later said was not charged.
Justice Raffaele said that after the officer struck him and he regained his composure, he asked another officer who was in charge and was directed to a sergeant, who, like the officer who hit him, was from the 115th Precinct. He told the sergeant that he wanted to make a complaint.
The sergeant, he said, stepped away and spoke briefly with some other officers — several of whom the judge said had witnessed their colleague strike him — and returned to tell the judge that none of them knew whom he was talking about. As the sergeant spoke to the other officers, the judge said, the officer who hit him was walking away.
At the hospital, he said, he saw another sergeant from the 115th Precinct, who took his complaint. He also telephoned the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau. He said he was interviewed on Friday by a lieutenant and a sergeant from a special unit in the bureau called Group 54, which investigates complaints of excessive force.