Justice Raffaele, Inching Closer To Reality
He's getting there.
From the New York Law Journal:
A state judge who says he was assaulted by a police officer is accusing the Queens district attorney of orchestrating a cover-up after the prosecutor announced yesterday he will not file criminal charges against the officer who allegedly hit the judge and assaulted a homeless man.
A lie? How can that be? They're the good guys, the protectors of officials and the status quo. Or as every young prosecutor is taught to ask, "why would they lie?"
"Get Down" Brown, who has had plenty of practice issuing press releases lately, did what came naturally; he backed his cop.
Brown's statement said that an investigation indicated that the homeless defendant, Charles Menninger, 47, was attempting to strike two police officers with a metal pipe and was appropriately restrained. He also suggested that Raffaele, who happened on the scene while walking through his neighborhood late one night, encroached on police.
But Raffaele said yesterday that the press release is full of falsehoods, and maintained it was the police officer, not Menninger, who was violently "out-of-control."
This is where the system gets awkward, unwieldy. Usually, it's just a few black and brown fingers pointing a bodies in blue claiming they were out of control. They're easily dismissed with the usual rhetoric, and since everyone in the official system knows that the odds favor the cops, no one blinks. But even though Justice Thomas Raffaele was walking the street in jeans that day, he still has a black robe hanging in his closet. Is his word so easily dismissed?
Brown also said he could not prove that the officer who allegedly hit Raffaele with a karate-like chop to the throat "unjustifiably struck Justice Raffaele and that the judge sustained a physical injury." He indicated that Raffaele had walked into a "safety perimeter that police officers attempted to establish" to contain Menninger and keep him away from the crowd.
Aside from tossing out cool police-type language like "safety perimeter" that creates an image of justification in the minds of all law-abiding people, Brown is really saying that Justice Raffaele isn't a credible witness. If it came down to a swearing contest between some cop and a judge, the cop wins. As he always does, except for the rare occasion when there's a video proving otherwise.
But the judge points out that it's not just his word (because he apparently understands why he isn't a credible witness), but there are witnesses to corroborate his account.
Raffaele said that when he was first interviewed in early June he gave investigators the names of witnesses who would corroborate his story. The judge said he later learned that the witnesses were not interviewed until much later and only after he complained.
This is a nuance often missed by those who don't deal with it regularly. Witnesses that don't bolster the police position aren't interviewed to ascertain what really happened, but to undermine their credibility so they can't be used by defense against them. When they aren't likely to be called by the defense, there isn't much reason to interview them at all. This detail often comes as a shock to people who watch too much TV, and think the police investigate. The police make cases, and do only so much as they need to solidify their ability to convict. Any investigation that muddies the waters is unhelpful. Why would they want to do that?
One might suspect that Justice Raffaele has come to an epiphany from this experience, how life on the street differs from the routine of official experience. And perhaps he's learning, but wearing the robe makes it hard, if not impossible, to truly appreciate the significance of what he's undergoing.
"I have great respect for police officers," Raffaele said. "I think the vast majority are very brave and do great things to protect us. But when something like this happens, something totally unprovoked and very, very violent and it is brushed off, it is very discouraging and very upsetting. My feeling, frankly, is that somebody who is that violent and dangerous should not be walking around with a gun and a badge. He is an out-of-control, dangerous person."
And so Justice Thomas Raffaele's journey continues. Still constrained to utter the requisite caveat of respect for police and one bad apple. He hasn't thought this through yet, recognizing that all the other police officers who didn't stop the officer from hurting him are protecting the one who did. He hasn't come to realize that Brown's allegiance is to the police, and not the judges. Or the truth. The words haven't sunk in that a perfectly fine story about a safety perimeter shields the official actions of the police from scrutiny, and allows the bad cop to thrive in a system that denies it could ever happen. Maybe he doesn't realize that Brown just called him a liar and incredible.
It's a process for a judge to give up every shred of official sanctity, all the fine platitudes and easy answers that he can wrap around him like a cocoon and protect him from the harsh reality that the rest of society endures. Justice Thomas Raffaele has reaches the step where he chalks it all up to an isolated incident. He still has a way to go.
Are other judges paying attention? You, or your spouse, or your kids, will walk the streets just like Justice Raffaele, and may happen upon a police officer pumped up with adrenalin and maybe a steroid or two. Do you think your robe will protect them any better than Thomas Raffaele's robe protected him? Are you willing to bet their life on it?