New York – A video prosecutors have used to bring charges against 10-year New York Police Department veteran will ultimately exonerate him, said the lawyer defending an undercover police detective facing serious assault charges for his role in a motorcycle rally that turned violent.
Attorney John Arlia made his claims outside criminal court in Manhattan on Wednesday, after a bearded Detective Wojciech Braszczok, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and camouflage pants, was charged with assault and criminal mischief.
His claims came as police continued to identify more suspects they believe may have participated in the brazen daylight brawl in upper Manhattan that left an SUV driver badly beaten and a biker likely paralyzed.
"The allegation is that he struck the rear portion hatchback window, which has a gaping hole already in it; it's already destroyed," Arlia told reporters. "Under the law, it's a fatal flaw. You can't break what's already broken."
Arlia said the video clearly shows Braszczok didn't participate in the eventual attack on the SUV driver and was nowhere near him. Braszczok hasn't been charged with assaulting the driver, Alexian Lien, who authorities say was pulled from his Range Rover and beaten on the street by other motorcyclists.
Cameras were barred in the courtroom because Braszczok's lawyer said his safety would be jeopardized. Braszczok hid his face in his hood when he left court after posting bond.
Braszczok, a married father of two, has worked in the New York Police Department's intelligence division, quietly infiltrating and investigating. His lawyer said he has served "valiantly."
But prosecutors said Braszczok was an active participant in the attack.
Braszczok was off duty when he joined the rally of more than 1,000 motorcyclists. Police say the bloody encounter was touched off when a motorcyclist and Lien's SUV bumped. Video captured at the scene shows riders swarming around the SUV before the driver takes off, running over biker Edwin Mieses Jr.
Mieses, of Lawrence, Mass., broke his legs and suffered spine injuries that will leave him paralyzed, his family has said. He had gotten off his motorcycle to defuse the tense situation when he was mowed over, the family said.
Bikers gave chase up Manhattan's West Side Highway, caught up with the SUV, smashed the driver's side window and dragged Lien out, authorities said.
Braszczok did nothing to stop the assault, prosecutors said. He didn't call 911 and didn't report it to his superiors for two days, and then, when he did, he lied about it, Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino said. At first, Braszczok told investigators he didn't see the attack, then changed his story to say he saw it but didn't participate, she said.
The detective was stripped of his gun and badge after internal affairs detectives discovered he was present for at least part of the encounter. He initially told authorities and his union that he left without intervening, in part because of his role as an undercover officer.
Uniformed officers, even off duty, are expected to jump in if a crime is occurring, but rules are murkier for undercover officers, who face blowing their covers if they come forward.
Investigators discovered video evidence showing Braszczok punching an already damaged back window, causing it to shatter, then twice kicking the passenger side of the SUV before leaving the scene, prosecutors said.
Several bikers also have been charged with attacking Lien or his SUV or instigating the melee.
Lien's wife has said he fled to protect her and their 2-year-old daughter. Lien hasn't been charged with any crime.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.