In April, Joe Ottomanelli of the famous West Village institution Ottomanelli & Songs Meat Markey gave deliveryman Victor Sheppard a noose and said, "Here is your gift. You can put it around your neck and pull if you want to end it all. If you are feeling stressed out I can help you with it.”
The New York Daily News reports that since the incident, which resulted in Ottomanelli turning himself in and being charged with a hate crime, Sheppard claims that he has been too traumatized to return to work, fearing for his safety and disheartened that his employer has not severed ties with the butcher.
“I could have lost my life or been badly injured or in jail, and it didn’t mean anything to them,” Sheppard said in another article published by the New York Daily News, referring to Mosner Family Brands' decision to continue serving Ottomanelli & Sons even after he reported the racist incident to his supervisor. "It's not easy returning to an environment where you mean nothing."
Wylie Stecklow, Sheppard's attorney, said that the man is "unable to sleep through the night and unsure when his life will return to normal.”
Allegedly a week prior to the noose incident, Ottomanelli had also told Sheppard, "It wasn't so long ago that your people couldn't sit in the front of the bus.”
Michael Mosner of Mosner Family Brands said that Sheppard was welcome to apply for disability leave and that the company had encouraged his former employee to seek counseling, which they would fund. He also said that they would have assigned Sheppard a new delivery route that would have allowed him to work far away from the threat of Ottomanelli & Sons. However, after the deliveryman did not come to work on two occasions they assumed he had left his job.
"We did everything we could to hold his spot," Mosner said. "He just didn’t do his part."
Ottomanelli & Sons have blamed the incident on Paul Durango, wrote the New York Post, an employee they fired a while ago and are framing the action as a sick "joke." Durango is reportedly now considering suing the butcher for defamation of character. The butcher's lawyer, Ron Kuby, attempted to diminish Sheppard's complaints, insisting that the deliveryman is making a mountain out of a mole hill and is just trying to make money.
“There’s no reason for this man to quit his job besides the reason that suing is easier than working,” Kuby told reporters. While he admitted that the noose was "ugly" and "hateful," he says that it was not a crime.
"It is more than just ugly and hateful. It is definitely a crime. And that is why the detective investigated, and that is why he was arrested," the Rev. Kevin McCall of the National Action Network said. "So Ron Kuby doesn't know what the hell he is talking about when he saying that it wasn't a crime. It was a crime, and that is why we are in court."
While Manhattan Judge Phyllis Chu issued an order of protection in favor of Sheppard, the rest of the case is an example of institutional racism at work. Instead of severing ties, Mosner Family Brands sought to diffuse the situation in a way that ultimately benefited them the most. The butchers are defending their name by victim-blaming, spinning the case as an elaborate attempt at making money by playing off of the racist stereotype of black people as lazy.
According to The New York Daily News, Sheppard has not filed a lawsuit against the butchers.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user Global Panorama, courtesy of Fraser Mummery