Justice Thomas Raffaele Learns (Almost) The Hard Way

The story of a bystander watching an arrest on the street, becoming the inexplicable target of a violent cop, who then viciously attacks him without reason, is not a new one here.  When the bystander happens to be a New York State Supreme Court Justice, it gets a little more interesting. 

From the New York Times :


Thomas D. Raffaele, a 69-year-old justice of the New York State Supreme Court, encountered a chaotic scene while walking down a Queens street with a friend: Two uniformed police officers stood over a shirtless man lying facedown on the pavement. The man’s hands were cuffed behind his back and he was screaming. A crowd jeered at the officers.

The journey of this story starts here, because the judge stumbles upon a street bust. Key detail is that the perp is on the ground cuffed.  Toward the bottom of the story, this detail emerges:


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.

And our judge, protector of the official, public servant sycophant, badge-licker, watches as the cuffed criminal gets kneed in the back repeatedly.  Our judge is concerned about the unruly crowd, upset at a cop for violently abusing his prisoner, becoming a threat to our judge’s beloved police.  So our judge calls 911 to backup the police. It never occurred to him that the perp on the ground shouldn’t be repeatedly kneed in the back, or the crowd had damn fine reason to be upset. 


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.


How horrible for our judge. His beloved cop attacks!  A sharp blow to the judges throat is a serious matter. Unlike a sharp knee to a perp’s back, over and over, which, our judge wondered, could potentially hurt the officer’s knee very badly.

But he’s a judge, not some unworthy street punk deserving whatever comes to him. You can’t do that to a judge!



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.


Welcome to the real world, judge. No matter how good you look in robes, on the street, you’re still the enemy. 

As it turned out, Justice Raffaele went to the hospital and was treated and released. He’ll be fine. He reported the incident to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which will give it a read as opposed to filing it in the unsubstantiated file with the rest of them.  And internal affairs is investigating because the complaint came from a judge.  He’s credible, as opposed to the rest of us who are dog meat.

But what did our judge learn from the experience?


“I do feel that it’s important for this person to be disciplined. I don’t know if he should be an officer or not — what he was doing was so violent.”

Ya think?  But it’s just one bad apple. No systemic problem here, and certainly no concern about the perp handcuffed on the ground getting kneed in the back over and over.  It’s not that Justice Raffaele is a bad guy, or even a bad judge, sitting in the matrimonial part and one of the volunteers to perform weddings of gay couples when the law was changed.


“I think, universally felt, that he is one of the most soft-spoken, thoughtful, decent human beings around,” Justice Weinstein said. “I think his temperament is admired by certainly his colleagues in the bar and I believe the community that he served.”

Often, the thought is that judges can’t understand and appreciate the reality of life on the street because they sit too high on their bench, their minds obscured by the obsequious laughter when they tell lame jokes.  Yet Justice Thomas Raffaele, walking the streets of Jackson Heights in jeans learned exactly how life on the street goes, both for the perp he watched beaten, the crowd trying to stop the viciousness and for himself, a 69-year-old men who was struck in the neck by a cop for no reason whatsoever.

He learned how the cops circle the wagons and refuse to help. He learned how they deny everything. He learned how they stand there watching as a cop attacks a person, and do absolutely nothing to stop it.

And all he gained from the experience was that there was one cop who needed discipline.  Not only does this shatter the myth that judges would know if only they could experience the life of regular folks on the street, but it reinforces the myth that those who have hitched their wagon to the establishment are incapable of either learning or caring, as they continue to see life through official eyes. 

It’s unfortunate that Justice Raffaele was harmed by a cop. It’s worse that he learned so little from it.



5 comments on “Justice Thomas Raffaele Learns (Almost) The Hard Way

  1. FRANK ROSA

    Justice Raffaele received a “taste” of life on the streets – a taste of what he and cohorts condone with their political philosophy of kow-towing to incompetent police.

  2. Burgers Allday

    I don’t think this judge has ever done criminal cases.

    I also get the feeling that the judge is the one who decided that this story should go to the media. If so, we owe him a big debt of gratitude on that. It probably would have been easier to throw his weight around in private. But, the public deserves to know and now we do.

  3. SHG

    I believe you’re correct on the first point, though by no means does that assure that he won’t be assigned to criminal term in the future.  On the second, it’s not so clear how this went public. But I agree completely that it’s good it did.

  4. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, in a cell phone based world I thought for certain it was due to video. I bet he wears a robe next time he day trips & that someone lost a spleen.

    Something is not right. If a regular person was to get throated by someone / anyone, they don’t seek out a Sgt. to notify that they’d like to file a complaint. They ask or signal other bystanders; to call (911) an ambulance & find out if anyone got it on tape or ask them to record the mofo that almost killed them. When the death-blow is utilized in a non self defense event and the victim survives, it’s a case of attempted murder & when a Sgt. scrambles the players, it’s a cover up. Thanks.

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