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To Victim’s Dismay, Supreme Court Lets Mugger Remain a Millionaire

November 30, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ The mugging victim never got a penny for his broken glasses, his torn jacket, his trauma from nearly being choked to death.

The mugger got $2 million, and on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court let him keep it.

The money came at a steep cost, though. As he ran from the subway station where he helped mug Jerome Sandusky in 1984, Bernard McCummings was paralyzed from the chest down when a policeman shot him in the back. A jury and appeals court found that the officer used excessive force.

Asked Monday if he has any sympathy for McCummings’ physical plight, Sandusky laughed.

″Ordinarily I would be sorry for anyone that was made a cripple. But he was made a cripple because of his own action,″ the 80-year-old man said.

Sandusky wasn’t laughing about the decision, issued without comment, to uphold the damage award to McCummings.

″I’m infuriated,″ Sandusky, a retired textile executive, said in a telephone interview from his home in Newark, N.J. ″It’s justice turned upside down ... and it sends a terrible message to other guys that crime does pay.″

McCummings’ lawyer, David Breitbart, contended that New York City Transit Authority officials tried to defend an improper shooting by one of their officers, falsely testifying that McCummings was shot in the chest.

″The message,″ Breitbart said, ″is that you can’t do whatever you want. You have to be held accountable for your actions.″

Lawrence Heisler, a lawyer for the Transit Authority, said he was disappointed the Supreme Court didn’t use the case to rule that police may shoot unarmed, fleeing suspects who have committed a violent crime.

″The message is, it’s probably wiser for a police officer to do nothing, in terms of civil liability,″ Heisler said.

McCummings was 23 and fresh out of jail for a previous robbery when he attacked Sandusky with an accomplice in a Manhattan subway station the night of June 28, 1984. A third young man stood lookout.

Sandusky was struck and pinned to the ground while his pockets were rifled. He screamed for help. ″The guy who was choking me kept saying, ‘If you don’t shut up I’m going to choke you to death.’ And he almost did,″ Sandusky said.

Two plainclothes transit police officers ran up. As McCummings fled, Officer Manuel Rodriguez shot him twice.

Sandusky was left with a bloody nose and a desire to move out of New York City.

McCummings pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and served more than two years in jail. Then he sued the Transit Authority.

A jury awarded him $4.3 million. This year, after losing earlier appeals, the Transit Authority paid about $3.1 million, of which Breitbart got about a third. The agency is withholding the rest because of a paternity lawsuit against McCummings and a fraud claim the authority has made against his previous lawyer.

Sandusky said he was never reimbursed for his jacket or his glasses - ″not to mention my state of mind.″ He said lawyers have told him it’s too late for him to sue McCummings.

Breitbart said McCummings, ill and unavailable for comment, was sorry he mugged Sandusky but had no thought of sharing his wealth with his victim.

″Was Mr. Sandusky hurt?″ Breitbart said. ″He didn’t have any injury. ... Bernard’s going to be crippled for the rest of his life.″

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