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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cops who abandoned boy avoid jail

Cops who abandoned boy, 15, in Staten Island swamp avoid jail after he refuses to testify
The New York Daily News by MIKE JACCARINO AND DAVE GOLDINER  - January 21, 2009

Two NYPD officers accused of dumping an egg-tossing teen in a desolate area of Staten Island escaped prison time Wednesday after the boy told prosecutors he wouldn't testify. "He didn't want the officers to go to jail," Assistant District Attorney Mario Mattei said of 15-year-old Rayshawn Moreno. "[He believes] they should go about their lives and he should go about his." Officers Thomas Elliassen and Richard Danese, both 29, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct Wednesday, knocking a felony down to a violation. Under the terms of the plea deal, the cops each paid $95 in court fees in connection with the Halloween 2007 incident. The cops were initially charged with felony unlawful imprisonment and faced up to four years in prison. Moreno's family blasted the deal as "disgraceful," saying the teen is still "petrified" over the incident. "They destroyed his dignity," said Evelyn Boyd, 61, the teen's grandmother. "He's afraid and he doesn't want to talk about it." Defense lawyers for the officers trashed the case as a house of cards and said they accepted the slap on the wrist to put the issue behind them. "It's a win-win," said Salvatore Strazzullo, who represented Danese. "It shows the mistakes that were made in the prosecutor's case." The officers were placed on desk duty after the incident and could still face departmental discipline.

Authorities said the cops put the Richmond High School student into a squad car after catching him tossing eggs at other vehicles. Prosecutors said they drove Rayshawn to a remote swampy area, forced him to strip down to his underwear and then left him. The boy's parents branded the two white 120th Precinct cops as racists, saying they mistreated their son because he's black. The cops told supervisors they dumped Rayshawn to teach him a lesson. When they came back to get him, he was gone. Rayshawn had to walk to a nearby strip mall to plead for help. His parents said he was terrified by the incident. Mattei called the youth "generous" and insisted he told the truth about his clash with cops. Ikiesha Al-Shabazz, the lawyer for Elliassen, said prosecutors dropped the criminal charges to spare the teen from having his story ripped to shreds on the witness stand. "Mr. Moreno was a victim who wasn't a victim at all," Al-Shabazz said. "He didn't want ... the truth to come out." A year after the dumping incident, Rayshawn was charged with weapons possession after he allegedly brought a box cutter to school. With Alison Gendar

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