Cousin of 15-year-old girl beaten down for Air Jordans speaks out

Tony Herbert is the community relations officer at IHI Power Services Corporation at the Ravenswood Generating Station in Long Island City. He is also president of the citywide public housing chapter of the National Action Network. He writes about the attack on his cousin, a 15-year-old girl, who was punched and kicked by a group of more than a dozen teenage boys on March 1.

Like many New Yorkers, I was appalled and horrified as I watched a caught-on-camera violent attack on my 15-year-old cousin by a vicious mob of teenagers — mostly boys — who punched, stomped and kicked her in the head and body. Adding insult to injury, one of her cowardly assailants snatched her Air Jordans as she lay helpless and semi-conscious.

Fortunately, police have apprehended and charged 11 alleged attackers with robbery and gang assault.

The attack shocked the conscience of the black community in Brooklyn.

My cousin is slowly on the mend from the bruises and surrounded by family to reassure her that she’ll be safe going forward as she deals with the psychological trauma. She is receiving a large outpouring of support from concerned people and celebrities who want to donate a new pair of Jordans and other gifts.

Seven of the 11 suspects in my cousin’s case ranged in age from 14 to 17 years old — the boy who stole her sneakers is 14 — and were arraigned in state supreme court. The case against four other alleged attackers was transferred to Family Court which handles juvenile offenders.

My cousin’s attackers were placed on a curfew by the court but are back in school — the same one attended by my cousin. Aside from the court action, what are the consequences for their egregious behavior?

The school system is going to wash its hands and claim that the incident took place off school grounds. School climate reports often contradict Mayor Bill de Blasio’s insistence that school crime is low.

A number of recent reforms intended to address the disparate impact of school discipline codes and incarceration on black and Hispanic communities — in particular, boys and men of color — have had unintended consequences for those same communities.

For me, blame lay squarely at the feet of Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza.

I am currently dealing with two cases in both the Bronx and Brooklyn where teen girls have been continually attacked and bullied by other females who are in gangs. In both cases, however, the schools are trying to keep the incidents hush, hush.

There are no real penalties meted out for these violent acts. Reports are generated that make it seem as though the assailants are arrested but little else happens. The perpetrators return to the same school and are told “to try their best to stay away” from their victim.

The parents of the bullied girls are left shaking their heads and fearing for their daughters. That’s not right.

Recent reforms meant to reduce the number of black, brown and poor people languishing in jails, prisons and juvenile facilities. But they didn’t consider how many black, brown and poor people would become victims thanks to their “compassion.”

“Raise the Age” gave a pass to young people who have been lured into gangs and set them loose to commit heinous crimes, such as the heartless assault on my young cousin, without fear of penalty.

Bail reform, which took away judicial discretion without consideration of a defendant’s dangerousness, automatically releases suspects of so-called nonviolent felony crimes on their own recognizance. Many have mocked the law by brazenly re-offending within days of their release.

While no one should be targeted for arrest because of their skin color or economic standing, repeat offenders shouldn’t be set free just because of those factors alone.

We must have confidence in the men and women of the judiciary to use their discretion and consider the suffering of the victims, who made the complaint as well as the potential victims, resulting from freeing a career criminal back into his/her neighborhood, before they make the decision whether or not to set bail.

Lastly, our city leaders must put together a task force to address the growing number of youth gangs in New York. Criminals are bold when they’re not acting alone.

When gang mentality sets in, they are inhumanely brutal. Don’t believe me? Just ask my 15-year-old cousin who lives with the trauma of that attack for the rest of her life.

Mayor de Blasio, do something before other young lives are put at risk.

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