Blacks lack confidence in Queens probe. Victim of New York racial attack calls for special prosecutor
A black man who survived a deadly racial attack by a white gang stuck to his refusal to cooperate with prosecutors Saturday, saying investigators were not interested in hearing his side of the story. ``They only wanted to hear part of it and not all of it,'' Cedric Sandiford said during a two-hour news conference at a Harlem church. ``So I decided to discontinue this masquerade.''
Mr. Sandiford said that after the incident the police neglected his injuries and questioned him in a manner suggesting they disbelieved his account.
Sandiford said he would cooperate only with a special prosecutor and called on New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to appoint one.
Sandiford's stepson, Michael Griffith, was struck by a car and killed as he was fleeing the gang of whites that attacked the black men as they left a pizza parlor in Howard Beach, Queens, on Dec. 20. Sandiford and Timothy Grimes escaped.
Three white youths were arrested in the attack, but Queens Criminal Court Judge Ernest Bianchi last week dropped murder charges against them for lack of evidence after Sandiford refused to testify.
The attack heightened racial tensions in the city, sparking attacks by black gangs that police called retaliation. Officials last weekend were evaluating security for the city's public schools, which reopened today after winter vacation.
Sandiford's lawyer, Alton Maddox Jr., said his client believes that the driver of the car that hit Mr. Griffith was part of the mob and ran him down intentionally.
Maddox has demanded that charges be lodged against the man, Dominick Blum, before Sandiford cooperates with prosecutors.
Police have said their investigation indicates that Mr. Blum, a court officer and the son of a police officer, had nothing to do with the mob. He has not been charged.
Sandiford on Saturday did not specify his allegations against Blum, and Maddox refused to let Sandiford answer questions.
Maddox and Mr. Grimes's lawyer, C. Vernon Mason, said Saturday they intend to use the incident to press for political and economic advancement for black people.
``This is a historic occasion,'' Maddox told the audience at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. ``It is a day that long will be remembered in the lives of our people in their quest for liberation and freedom.''
Maddox and Mr. Mason berated politicians, police, prosecutors, and reporters, saying they perpetuated a racist system that denies justice to blacks.
Maddox, Mason, and several men they called on to speak portrayed the incident as an example of systemic injustice against blacks in the city. They added that it has raised an opportunity to combat racism.
They called for blacks to demonstrate their economic power by boycotting pizza parlors. They also said they would urge a boycott of news organizations that they believe fail to represent black interests.
``We are going to take immediate effective and corrective action to improve our condition in New York City, in New York state and in this country,'' Maddox said.
The lawyers suggested they would not cooperate for the time being with Deputy Attorney General Charles J. Hynes, the special state prosecutor for corruption in the criminal justice system.
Governor Cuomo has asked Hynes to look into the lawyers' charges of official misconduct in the case.
Mason and Maddox, however, said they first want a prosecutor appointed to investigate possible criminal charges against Blum. Said Maddox: ``We will work with anybody who is primarily concerned with prosecuting the murder.''
But the lawyers also said they had no faith in the criminal justice system. ``We are engaged in a system that expects lawyers to participate in cover-ups, to participate in the charge of injustice that pervades the courts in this state,'' Maddox said.