Centennial Celebration
Brothers Guilty in Beating of Firefighter

Newsday - December 06, 2007

by LUIS PEREZ

One by one, each member of the jury deciding the fate of Darian and Darrell Taylor uttered a single word - guilty - and the brothers flew into a rage.

Their brief tirade came at the end of an emotionally charged trial in which they were found guilty of gang assault and first-degree assault on New York City firefighter Richard Berkhout on the Sept. 11 anniversary last year.

"You -- lying -- ," Darian Taylor, of Center Moriches, who is black, screamed at Berkhout, who is white. The firefighter sat in the stands hugging his wife, Maureen, a witness to the Mastic Beach confrontation.

"Don't look at me like that. I didn't touch your -- husband," Darian Taylor said, adding: "I hope you rot in hell."

Darrell Taylor, of Mastic, who heard his guilty verdict after his brother, exploded, slamming his fist on the table and spewing profanities so vehement that Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle had him removed from the courtroom.

Their guilty verdicts ended the duties of one of two juries empaneled for the case; the fate of a third man who is their half brother, Christopher Robinson, 26, is expected to be announced by the second panel today.

Like the Taylor brothers, Robinson faces 25 years to life in prison on similar charges, if convicted. Darian and Darrell Taylor are to be sentenced Jan. 8. The Taylor brothers were acquitted by the same jury of third-degree assault, a lesser charge stemming from their alleged assault of Berkhout's wife.

From the beginning, the confrontation, which occurred as Berkhout, 47, and his wife, took a stroll on Lakeview Drive in Mastic after attending 9/11 services earlier that day, was presented by defense attorneys and prosecutors as two different events.

Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Elena Tomaro said Richard Berkhout had yelled at a speeding car that passed him to "slow down." Those words set off a vicious attack in which the three men in the car got out and repeatedly struck Berkhout, causing bleeding in the brain and other serious injuries that left him in critical condition.

Defense attorneys for the trio said Berkhout, intoxicated on alcohol, delivered the same two words followed by profanities. The lawyers also maintained that only Robinson dealt a single blow to Berkhout.

In the end, the defense said their clients faced an uphill battle in an emotionally charged case. At the defendant's arraignment last year, hundreds of uniformed city firefighters packed Doyle's courtroom, and they did so again at the start of trial last month.

"You're dealing with someone who was a pillar of his community," attorney Richard Stafford of Bohemia, who represented Darrell Taylor in the case, said of Berkhout. "He's just a great guy. He was a firefighter on 9/11, a volunteer in his community, and had just an impeccable background. That's a lot for a jury to overlook."

Said Craig McElwee of Lindenhurst, who represented Darian Taylor: "We were starting in a hole and had to dig our way out."

Tomaro and Berkhout declined to comment before Robinson's fate is decided.

Staff writer Alfonso Castillo contributed to this story.