NEW YORK — The man who accused New York City police officers of sodomizing him with a baton in a subway station is a pot-smoking thief and a gang member who has a Crips tattoo across his stomach to prove it.
Michael Mineo admits as much. But he says that doesn't mean the three officers on trial in the case are innocent.
Mineo took the stand Monday for prosecutors, telling the jury he felt four jabs into his backside as he lay on the ground of a subway station, handcuffed and surrounded by cops. A few jurors winced or shook their heads as Mineo detailed the attack and the intense pain he said he felt.
"I was in pain, I was disoriented, I saw a white light," he testified at the second day of trial for the officer accused of assaulting him and two others charged with covering it up.
Under heated cross-examination, defense attorney Stuart London tried to rile Mineo, pointing to his lifestyle and a rap sheet that includes prior arrests for gang assault, identity theft and drug possession. He suggested Mineo was using the criminal case to get more money in a multimillion-dollar civil suit he filed against the city.
"I didn't ask for this, man," Mineo said to London. "I don't want to be here right now. Even if they gave me a billion dollars, it wouldn't make up for what they did to me. Do you know how embarrassing this for me? Even just talking to you?"
Cross-examination took the bulk of the day, while Mineo's initial questioning by Assistant District Attorney Charles Guria took just under an hour. Testimony continues Tuesday.
Officer Richard Kern, who allegedly used the baton, is charged with aggravated sexual abuse and assault. Officers Alex Cruz and Andrew Morales are charged with hindering prosecution and official misconduct. The three have pleaded not guilty.
If convicted, Kern could face up to 25 years in prison; the others could face up to four years.
London, who is representing Cruz, asked Mineo about discrepancies in his testimony, including whether he was kicked in the head by one of the officers. London also questioned Mineo's initial statements that he was sodomized with a walkie-talkie antenna and that it was Cruz who did it.
"I assumed," Mineo said, explaining that he saw Cruz's walkie-talkie fall as he ran, and said when he was lifted up after the attack, it was Cruz who said, "You liked it."
Mineo testified that he was walking to a Brooklyn bus stop and was smoking pot on Oct. 15, 2008, when the officers came up behind him and said he was going to be arrested. He said he took off running because he had a rap sheet that includes eight arrests and because he had no identification. Most of the pending cases have since been resolved.
He ran for the subway, his baggy pants sagging, jumped a turnstile and nearly made a train leaving the station. After missing it, he went back upstairs, when he was clothes-lined by a uniformed cop, who "took him down," he said.
"I just started getting kicked, my head, my sides, I was just getting kicked," he said.
Mineo testified that he was later led out of the subway station, bleeding and screaming, to a blue-and-white police cruiser. "Every person that was passing by, I was screaming for help," he said.
Inside the car, he said the officers made him a deal: If he had no outstanding warrants, they would let him go, as long as he didn't tell anyone about the assault.
Even though he had a warrant for a gang arrest, they turned him loose with a disorderly conduct summons, then circled the block three times before leaving, he testified. The minute he was out of their sight, he took a taxi to a hospital, he said.
Mineo, a former tattoo parlor employee, wore a crisp lavender shirt under a cream striped sweater and black jeans in court Monday. Tattoos peeked out from his shirt sleeves and collar.
He stood as Guria asked him where his pants where on his hips at the time of the attack. Later, he rolled up his shirt sleeves and stood to expose his inked arms and the Crips tattoo on his stomach after London suggested he wore nice clothing to try to sway them.
He also stood to demonstrate how he reached down with his hands bound and jerked them around to find what he says was blood on his fingers.
Mineo said his friends encouraged him to go to a hospital, where he spent about five days.