Did a New York undercover detective join fellow motorcyclists in chasing and catching an SUV driver, then terrorize his family as he was dragged from the vehicle and beaten?
That's what a prosecutor argued Wednesday, when Wojciech Braszczok was charged with first-degree gang assault and first-degree assault -- both felonies -- and third-degree criminal mischief in connection with a September 29 incident on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
"(What happened) can only be described as a brutal and brazen attack on the driver and his family, in which the defendant is an active participant," Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino said in court.
Saying much of what transpired is captured on video, Turino put Braszczok, who was off-duty and riding with his motorcycle club at the time, among what she called a "mob of motorcyclists" who pursued Alexian Lien, dragged him from his Range Rover, then "stomped on, kicked and hit (him) with helmets until he appeared to lose consciousness."
The 32-year-old Braszczok got off his bike after Lien, after being hemmed in by motorcyclists, ran over a few of them trying to escape, Turino said. He then joined bikers who chased Lien off the West Side Highway and onto 178th Street, where Lien stopped for good.
As the SUV driver was being beaten, the prosecutor said, Braszczok "terrorize(d) the rest of the driver's family on the other side of the vehicle," including shattering the rear window and kicking in the passenger side rear door.
"It should be noted that the 2-year-old child of (Lien) was in the backseat at the time the defendant was committing these violent acts," said Turino.
Braszczok's lawyer, John Arlia, firmly denied his client did anything wrong, saying his decision to go after someone who had run over motorcyclists doesn't constitute a crime.
Arlia questioned whether it was the 10-year New York police veteran who broke the SUV's window, saying it was already broken. The attorney also said that his client, a father of two who appeared in court wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and camouflage shorts, never got within 12 feet of the victim, much less hit him. Arlia said video from the scene shows as much.
"It's an absolute overcharge," Arlia said of the prosecution's case, saying that most of the motorcyclists didn't know each other. "... He is in no way near (Lien) and doesn't join the others. ... They can't prove it."
After both sides presented their cases, a judge set Braszczok's bail at $150,000 bond or $100,000 cash. He later posted bond and was released, according to his lawyer.
Braszczok's arraignment was not unexpected, as police indicated Tuesday he had been arrested. But the charges detailed then were less serious than those announced Wednesday.
Arlia told reporters that Braszczok is an undercover detective who has infiltrated various criminal organizations during his time in the New York Police Department, adding that he didn't have a criminal record.
He was one of at least two off-duty undercover officers who were riding with fellow bikers that day, a law enforcement official told CNN. Authorities have no information that the other officer, who was riding with Braszczok, played an active role in the incident, according to a law enforcement official.
Braszczok allegedly didn't inform supervisors that he was among the large group of bikers until two days after the incident. At that time, the prosecutor said, Braszczok denied being at the site of the confrontation. He changed his story, but denied participating in the beating, the next day, the prosecutor said.
1 Brooklyn resident charged, another arrested
The undercover police officer wasn't the only motorcyclist tied up in the case Wednesday.
Clint Caldwell, a 32-year-old biker from Brooklyn, was also arraigned on first-degree gang assault and first-degree assault charges.
During Braszczok's hearing, Turino said that -- when the Range Rover was halted on 178th Street, after motorcyclists cut off traffic -- Caldwell "charges the (broken) driver's side window ... and appears to strike (Lien) at least two times."
Speaking after his client's arraignment, lawyer Raymond L. Colon said video will show Caldwell opening the door of Lien's Range Rover, but not assaulting him.
"He asks him to pull over, shut the engine -- (Lien) just struck a couple of motorcyclists," Colon told reporters. "And that's all he did. There's no contact. You'll clearly see from the video he doesn't reach into the window. There is another individual standing next to him that does."
As with Braszczok, Judge Tamiko Amaker set Caldwell's bail at $150,000 bond or $100,000 cash.
Police said another person also was arrested Wednesday in connection with the case.
James Kuehne, a 31-year-old Brooklyn resident, faces charges of gang assault, criminal mischief and criminal possession of a weapon, according to police.
Confrontation between bikers, SUV driver in Manhattan