NBC 4 New York
Prosecutors upgraded charges to include gang assault for an undercover NYPD officer who was allegedly involved in a violent fight between a group of motorcyclists and a man driving a Range Rover in Manhattan. Checkey Beckford reports
Prosecutors upgraded charges to include gang assault for an undercover NYPD officer who was allegedly involved in a violent fight between a group of motorcyclists and a man driving a Range Rover in Manhattan.
Detective Wojciech Braszczok, 32, turned himself in to police Tuesday evening and was initially charged with riot and criminal mischief, according to police. The upgraded felony charge was added Wednesday.
He's not believed to have physically assaulted the driver, who was pulled from the SUV and beaten after being chased by the bikers; he is charged with assault because he was allegedly part of the larger group that carried out the attack.
Braszczok, who was not on duty, was seen on video wearing a black vest that said "Front Line Soldiers" on the back, punching the SUV, shattering its rear window, and then kicking the passenger side door, according to the criminal complaint.
At court for his arraignment Wednesday, his lawyer John Arlia said the video shows he wasn't part of the assault and that the charges are not deserved. Bail was set at $100,000 for the man and Braszczok will testify in grand jury proceedings Friday, Arlia said.
Braszczok has spent 10 years with the NYPD, the last five as an undercover, including during the Occupy Wall Street movement, according to a law enforcement official.
During his time with Occupy Wall Street, he participated in demonstrations, attended meetings and essentially lived like a protester to provide information to the NYPD, according to the official.
Braszczok came forward last week, several days after the Sept. 29 chase that ended in a fight, to say he was present, according to a source, and did not call 911 when the assault was taking place.
The video that just recently surfaced shows the undercover riding off when the driver is pulled from the SUV, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The video has not been made public.
Sources say Braszczok was not truthful with investigators about his role.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said Tuesday that a detective had been placed on modified duty and that his involvement is under investigation.
Undercover officers are required to immediately report being a witness to a crime. Uniformed officers are required to take police action if they see a crime occurring, but the rules are murkier for undercover officers who face blowing their cover, confusing civilians who don't realize the undercover is really a cop and ruining years-long investigations.
It is not clear why Braszczok was riding with the group of motorcyclists.
On Wednesday, another biker, James Kuehne, 31, of Brooklyn, was arrested in connection with the melee and charged with gang assault, criminal mischief and criminal possession of a weapon.
Six bikers aside from Braszczok have now been criminally charged.