A judge on Tuesday cleared an undercover New York police detective of gang assault and first-degree assault but found him guilty of lesser charges in connection with the beating of a man by a group of motorcyclists that prosecutors said was an appalling display of bullying of a father out for a drive with his young family.
A second man was convicted of attempted gang assault and attempted first-degree assault, as well as other charges, but he also was acquitted of the more serious charges, including gang assault.
Neither the police officer, Wojciech Braszczok, 34, nor his co-defendant, Robert Sims, 36, said anything as Judge Maxwell Wiley delivered his verdict. The defendants had opted for a bench trial rather than a jury trial in the closely watched case, which drew national attention because the assault was captured on video.
The defendants said that Alexian Lien sparked the melee by running over one of the hundreds of bikers taking part in a Sept. 29, 2013, rally through New York City and its suburbs. Lien was seen on video being dragged out of his SUV and kicked and beaten by helmeted motorcyclists as his wife and 2-year-old daughter cowered in the vehicle.
Wiley found Braszczok guilty of coercion, riot and criminal mischief. Braszczok also was convicted of one count of assault in the second degree but acquitted of one count of the same charge. He faces at least two years in prison.
Braszczok was acquitted of gang assault, attempted gang assault, assault and attempted assault.
Sims was convicted of gang assault, attempted assault, assault in the second degree, coercion, riot and criminal possession of a weapon. He faces at least 3½ years in prison.
Braszczok and Sims were among 11 men indicted after video, captured on cameras mounted on some bikers' helmets, showed a mob dragging Lien from his SUV and kicking and beating him. Nine others pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, including assault and riot.
Braszczok testified in his defense and said he joined scores of other bikers in pursuit of Lien up Manhattan's West Side Highway after seeing Lien run down a fellow biker in his SUV. Lien's wife, Rosalyn Ng, earlier had testified that her husband accidentally ran down the biker while trying to flee the crowd because the family feared for their lives.
Braszczok said he intended to talk to Lien about running over the motorcyclists, but after Lien was forced by the crowd to stop, video showed bikers pounding on his car and breaking his windows. Braszczok acknowledged kicking the vehicle and hitting its back window. On video, he could be seen glancing at Lien as he lay on the ground after being dragged out of the car, and then riding away.
He said he could not intervene or he would have blown his cover.
"I wish I could have done more, but I already made the decision that I was going to leave. I wish that I could have done more to help the driver," he testified.
Braszczok also did not call 911.
In explaining the verdict, Wiley said the evidence proved that Sims shared intent with others taking part in the assault, but he said the evidence did not prove that the undercover officer had the same intent as the mob taking part in the gang assault.
Neither Braszczok nor Sims commented after the verdict, but their attorneys both portrayed the outcome as a victory for their clients.
Luther Williams, one of the lawyers for Sims, said he had hoped for a blanket acquittal for his client but believed he had received a fair trial. He said the defendants were just two in a large group of people, including the SUV driver and his wife, who inflamed a situation that got out of control.
"I think that in the heat of the moment, they did some dumb things," Williams said of Sims and Braszczok. "But I think a lot of folks in this case did a lot of dumb things in the heat of the moment."
Braszczok's attorney, John Arlia, said his client had been vindicated.
"He has been acquitted of gang assault and assault in the first degree," Arlia said in a statement. "Not by his hand was Mr. Lien assaulted."
He said Braszczok hoped to "move on with his life."
The two men remain free on bail until they are sentenced in August.