Cops should face serious charges in abduction case, outraged activists, parents say
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NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – Staten Island police officers handcuffed 14-year-old Rayshawn Moreno on Halloween night, placed him in the back of their marked patrol car, drove him to a secluded wooded area, and left him. The two White officers wanted to teach him a lesson for throwing eggs at passing cars.
The teen had to run over a mile in gym shorts and socks to a mall where he asked a security guard for help.
Community activists attended an NAACP-sponsored Dec. 3 press conference to protest a decision by the district attorney not to present the case against the two officers to a grand jury. Officers Thomas Elliassen and Richard Danese were scheduled go to court Dec. 5, but the hearing was postponed. They were facing charges of misdemeanor second-degree unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child.
District Attorney Daniel Donovan will not answer reporters’ questions, but in a statement, said he was acting within the legal framework available under the state penal code. “These are the highest charges available,” Mr. Donovan said.
The attorney for the family wants prosecutors to charge both officers with second-degree kidnapping.
“What I am asking for is for the law to be followed, and if it’s not the law, show me where a judge ever said that the facts presented here don’t give rise to a kidnapping,” attorney Jason Leventhal explained to reporters.
“This is about a police cover-up,” Mr. Levanthal told The Final Call before the press conference.
“We are asking for a full investigation concerning why the district attorney won’t convene a grand jury,” said Ed Josey, president of the Staten Island chapter of the NAACP.
If the officers are convicted on the misdemeanor charges, they face a year in jail. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the department is awaiting the outcome of the case before determining what to do with the two officers. Both are on desk duty and have been relieved of their weapons.
“They need more than a year in jail,” Mr. Josey said. “Unfortunately, I don’t expect anything but a slap on the wrist.”
According to the penal code, a person is guilty of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree, when another person is restrained under circumstances which expose the latter to risk or serious injury.
Mr. Josey joined Atty. Levanthal on a ride to the spot where the officers left the teen, and found train tracks with a live rail. “Suppose the young man had run into that live track?” he asked.
This is criminal behavior and a gross dereliction of police department procedures, said Marq Claxton, a former NYPD officer and a member of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.
“People are making a mistake when they call this police misconduct, when you kidnap a juvenile, and then place him in danger, that is criminal behavior. These officers should have been immediately terminated, and their commander replaced or fired because he is part of the cover-up,” Mr. Claxton said.
“I want justice for my son,” Telisa Hazel told reporters. “They tell me this is ‘old school’ policing. But, I am older than either one of these officers, so what do they know of ‘old school?’ If that were true then they should have put him in their car and brought him home to us,” Ms. Hazel said.
James Hazel, Rayshawn’s father, told reporters that if the parents had taken the boy to the woods and left him, the Agency for Children’s Services would have arrested them. “So how do they have the right to treat our son this way?” Mr. Hazel asked.
“The constitutional and civil rights of Rayshawn were violated Halloween night when the officers, no matter how well meaning, decided to take the law into their own hands. This is unacceptable and simply cannot be ignored,” added the Staten Island Ministerial Alliance in a prepared statement read by Rev. James Seawood, of Brighton Heights Reform Church.
Mr. Josey told The Final Call Dec. 4 that the district attorney postponed the trial date, saying he needed more time to investigate the charges.