A Manhattan judge convicted an undercover officer earlier this month of felony assault and other crimes for his role in a brutal motorcycle gang beating of a man in front of his wife and daughter.  Undercover officer NYPD Detective Wojciech Braszczok, 35, faces a minimum of two years and a maximum of seven years in prison when he’s sentenced on August 5th.  He is expected to be fired.  Braszczok was acquitted of the most serious offense, gang assault, but was found guilty of coercion, rioting, and criminal mischief.

“The court will not explain its verdict except to say that the verdict was based on the law and the evidence and on nothing but the law and the evidence,” said Justice Maxwell Wiley, who presided over the non-jury trial in Manhattan Supreme Court.

His defense lawyer, John Arlia, saw the verdict as vindication, “He wishes to move on with his life and thanks everyone who has reserved judgement.” His co-defendant Robert Sims, 36, was also acquitted of the most serious offense, but was convicted of attempted gang assault, among other charges.  He faces at least 3 1/2 years at his sentencing on August 6th. “I think in the heat of the moment they did some dumb things, but I think a lot of folks in this case did a lot of dumb things,” said Sims’ lawyer Luther Williams.

Braszczok and Sims were with other motorcyclists at a rally on September 30, 2013.  Alexian Lien, 33, was driving with his wife, Rosalyn, 29, and their infant daughter, up the West Side Highway toward New Jersey for a shopping trip to celebrate their wedding anniversary.  As they drove in their blue Range Rover, they noticed motorcyclists flying through red lights, doing wheelies, and other dangerous behavior.

When Lien tried to go around them, the bikers became enraged, shouted profanities, and threatened the family.

“I felt complete fear for my life, my wife and my daughter,” he said.

One biker “brake-checked” the SUV forcing it to stop.  The motorcyclists then swarmed the victims near 125th street.  One biker pulled a knife and Lien stepped on the gas injuring Edwin Mieses, one of the bikers.  The mob became even more infuriated and pursued the family to West 178th Street where the bikers again descended upon the car, knocking out the windows. Braszczok, who initially told investigators he was not involved and was afraid to intervene, was caught on camera kicking the vehicle and smashing the windows.

The bikers drug the father from the vehicle and began to viciously beat him.  They also attempted to drag his wife from the vehicle.  Sims is seen on the video stomping Lien and kicking him as he lay motionless in a pool of blood.  Braszczok watched from just a few feet away.

At trial, the defense argued that the bikers were only attempting to detain Lien for, what they thought was the murder of Mieses.  Braszczok’s defense attorney said that the only reason he pursued Lien was because Lien had fled the scene of a crime.  But neither Sims nor Braszczok, an officer, called the police or waited at the scene. Braszczok claimed on the stand that he only attacked the SUV because he thought the man was shooting at him.

“At the time you saw this man on the ground being beaten you did not intervene to help him, correct?” asked Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass. “Right. I looked over, I didn’t know who was in the car. I felt unsafe,” answered Wojciech Braszczok, “I was afraid of who was inside the vehicle.”

Through cross-examination, he conceded he knew that a woman was in the car, “But I didn’t know who was in the back.  I didn’t see who was inside the car. I didn’t know.” The couple’s daughter was in the backseat covered in shattered glass.

“You knocked out the back window,” the prosecutor shot back. “You had a pretty good view…”

“Isn’t it true, Detective Braszczok, the real reason you didn’t stop the attack was because you were part of it?” demanded Steinglass. “Absolutely not,” he answered firmly. “In my heart and in my mind, I believe I did not commit any crime.”

“He didn’t metamorphosize from a cop to a criminal,” said Arlia in his closing statement. “Did you intend to hurt him?” Braszczok’s lawyer, John Arlia, asked him. “Absolutely not,” Braszcok answered.

Braszcok testified that he dismounted his bike after the Range Rover had run over the man and walked around the rear to speak with the driver.  He said he heard a popping sound and noticed a hole in the rear windshield. “I hear a bang, I see shattered glass and a hole in the rear window,” Braszczok recounted. “At that split second, I thought it was coming to me…. I thought that I was getting targeted.”

He said his response was to smash the window, “It’s a reaction.  It’s not…intentional…” After the beating, Lien was left unconscious, despite testifying that he intended to detain Lien until uniformed officers arrived, the video shows that the detective glances at Lien and then rides off.

“In my mind, the situation was unsafe, and I just left,” he testified. “I wish I could have done more to help the driver.” “Is retreat part of police tactics?” Arlia asked him. “Yeah,” Braszczok answered.

The cross-examination was described by trial watchers as brutal. D.A. Steinglass expressed skepticism of Braszczok’s changing account.  If Braszczok intended to persuade Lien to stop without revealing himself to be a police officer, why did he later tell a fellow officer that he chased the SUV intending to “take police action?”  Braszczok responded that everything he does including in a civilian capacity is a “police action.”

“So if you go into a 7-11, that’s a police action?” Steinglass asked.

Why had Braszczok never mentioned the pop and the hole in the glass that so alarmed him when he discussed the matter with friends and fellow officers? Why had he told fellow officers that the injuries he sustained smashing out the rear window were caused by flying glass?  In other words, why did he tell everyone an invented version? Braszczok responded he couldn’t remember the context of the conversations.

Why didn’t Braszczok notice that his fellow bikers were also attempting to pull Lien’s wife out to assault her?  “My core concern is for me,” he said.

It also came out in trial that Braszczok was working undercover in the Occupy movement, a very controversial NYPD surveillance program aimed at protestors.  But, for a guy who works as an undercover agent, he had an extremely extensive online presence.  For example, the same undercover Twitter handle he had to tweet about the Occupy movement, he also used to talk about Frontline, a.k.a. Front Line Soldiers, a police motorcycle club.  He also posted using the same handle identifying himself as an officer.  He also had a Photobucket account of women and himself in various states of undress.  He explained that he thought it was a “private secure website.” Steinglass also questioned him about his exchanges with his NYPD handler prior to the assault.  Braszczok told his handler he was going to attend the event and that it would have acts of unlawfulness and “mayhem”.  When the handler began to question him, he responded “I’m only kidding, man.”

“Why did you lie to your handler?” the prosecutor asked. “So he doesn’t worry that I might be in harm’s way,” Braszczok answered. “You had a good reason to lie,” Steinglass offered. After the beating, as the group reflected on the event, Braszczok texted “It was fun.”

“What was fun?” Steinglass asked him.  He responded, “Nothing…”

A city cop testified during the 3 week trial that the undercover officer lied to him during their conversation.  The video of the attack went viral not long after the incident, showing a mob of bikers viciously beating 33-year-old husband and father, Alexian Lien.  Housing Officer Ruben Nadal recognized Braszczok.  Nadal, a fellow biker, was a member of Frontline.  He met with him at New Rochelle bar to ask him about the incident.  “I said, Look, listen I see you in this video…I see our colors.  I want to make sure he took police action that was my main concern…I trusted him…I took him at his word.” Braszczok did not call 911, he did not intervene, and in fact had participated in the attack.

A trained undercover officer didn’t help Lien, but a taxi driver did. Sergio Consuegra, 53, the good Samaritan who stopped the beating testified, “I heard a lot of commotion of motorcycles coming down really fast.  They get off their bikes and started hitting the [SUV] all over the place, and they managed to open the door and pull out the driver [Alexian Lien], and at the same time they opened the door of the passenger side and they tried to pull [Lien’s wife] out.” Consuegra was on his way to church when he came upon the assault at the traffic light.

“I said to them, That’s it…just let it go…They started talking to me and one of the said, No, he ran over one of us.  I opened my arms to protect [Lien] from these people…”

The bikers did retreat and sped away.

“I feel I did the right thing…I saved somebody from being killed.”

Sims’ defense lawyer Omar Almanzar-Paramio argued that the Brooklyn electrician didn’t plan to injure Lien, he simply got caught up in the moment. “Robert Sims had no intention of seriously harming anyone.”

“The defendant [Braszczok] never thought there was a threat from within, he knew exactly where the threat was coming from…[he was the threat],” said Asst. District Attorney Joshua Steinglass in his closing argument, “He’s so arrogant, he can’t admit to the facts that are obvious…”

The wife of Lien cried as she testified.  Rosalyn Ng told Justice Maxwell Wiley, “It was a nice day, we were going to do some shopping…and then we had a dinner planned…” She described as they drove north with their 2-year-old daughter that hundreds of bikers flooded the city for the Hollywood Block Party Rally.  Lien, who works in finance, ended up in a heated exchange with the motorcyclists.  She described how the bikers initially attacked them “They were pointing at our car, motioning to bring other people.”  Many of the bikers made throat slitting motions. One of the bikers slowed down in front of the car causing Lien to tap his bumper.

“They started to hit the car.  You could feel the car shaking…they were screaming…On my side…there were guys with knives, they were using the back of the knife…trying to break the window…They were saying things like I’m going to f-ing kill you.  I’m going to get you.”

“We were just kind of in shock and terrified and Alex asks me What do I do…I said just go…” She recalled, “We’re not going to survive if we stay…He turned to the right and took off and I know he hit something…”

The motorcycle gang pursued them.  She described how the bikers used their fists and helmets to shatter the windows.

“Somehow they got my door open,” she said, dabbing her eye with a tissue. “I was screaming. they were trying to yank me out of the car. There was someone pulling my arm and someone pulling my legs, and I just kept trying to kick them off. I kept kicking and screaming, ‘There’s a baby in the car!”

Prosecutors said Sims was one of the bikers attempting to drag Ng from the car, he yelled, “Bitch you’re going to get it too!”

Nine other bikers accepted plea deals, including Christopher Cruz, 28, who dropped the f-bomb on reporters when he was freed on bail not long after arrest.  If the two men had been convicted of the most serious offense they would have faced up to 25 years in jail.

Ng said that the family had planned a Sunday out together to celebrate, but “unfortunately…we were placed in grave danger by a mob of reckless and violent motorcyclists.  [My husband] was forced under the circumstances to take the actions that he did in order to protect the lives of our entire family.  We know in our hearts that we could not have done anything differently.”  She said they sympathize with the injured biker, but “our fear for our lives was confirmed when the incident ended with the ruthless and brutal attack…We would like to thank the brave citizens who risked their own safety to intervene on our behalf. They truly helped save our lives and prevented my husband from suffering further injury. We also appreciate and are moved by the outpouring of love and support so many have expressed…”

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