NEW YORK – Three police officers surrendered Tuesday and were charged with felonies for their role in an attack on a tattoo parlor worker who authorities say was sodomized with a baton in a subway station.
At a news conference, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes confirmed a previously sealed indictment charging Officer Richard Kern with aggravated sexual abuse and assault, and fellow officers Alex Cruz and Andrew Morales with hindering prosecution and official misconduct for allegedly covering up the crime.
Authorities say that the DNA of their accuser, Michael Mineo, was found on a police baton.
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All three officers also were charged with misdemeanors, including falsifying records.
The officers turned themselves in at the Brooklyn district attorney's office Tuesday. The indictment had been handed up by a grand jury last week.
Defense attorneys say the officers didn't do anything wrong.
"We don't know what the people's proof is, but as far as I'm concerned my client is not guilty," said Kern's attorney, John Patten.
Said Cruz's lawyer, Stuart London: "He never observed any misconduct nor engaged in any misconduct."
Police said the three officers approached Mineo on Oct. 15 outside a subway station because they believed he was smoking marijuana. Hynes said Tuesday that Mineo fled into the station and jumped two turnstiles before he was pinned down and handcuffed.
Mineo, a 24-year-old body piercer, claims that during the struggle his pants were pulled down and one of the officers sodomized him as he screamed in pain. He says he believed he was violated with the antenna of a police radio and that the assailant was Cruz.
But a transit officer called as a grand jury witness early last month testified that he saw Kern holding a baton near Mineo's buttocks, according to law enforcement officials.
Mineo was given a ticket for disorderly conduct and released. The district attorney said police threatened to arrest Mineo and charge him with a felony if he reported the episode to anyone.
Mineo's attorney, Kevin Mosley, said he was thrilled by the charges, particularly with the count alleging hindering prosecution.
"A message has been sent: The police cannot hinder and cover up bad cops," Mosley said.
Mineo was hospitalized for several days. Hospital discharge papers show he was diagnosed with "anal assault."
The attack has rekindled memories of the case of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized with a broomstick in a police precinct 11 years ago. That case ignited racial tensions in the city and led to convictions against the white officers.
But the reaction to the Mineo case has not been as intense. Mineo is white, and the officers are white, Hispanic and black.