In a swift strike by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, an artist who videotaped police and demonstrators clashing in Tompkins Square Park was arrested yesterday and charged with contempt of court for refusing to turn over the tape.
The artist, Clayton Patterson, 40 years old, was arrested about 3:15 P.M. by detectives inside the specialty hat store at 161 Essex Street that he owns with his wife. Earlier in the day, he and his lawyer, Alton H. Maddox Jr., had appeared in the office of District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau to answer a grand jury subpoena for the tape, which was issued Aug. 19 and extended until yesterday.
Instead of the videotape, Mr. Maddox submitted a letter that said the tape had been delivered to Representative John Conyers, the Democrat from Michigan who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, ''for a thorough review of its contents.'' Tape Returned to Mr. Maddox
Mr. Conyers's office said it had mailed the tape back to Mr. Maddox and added that the District Attorney's office had expressed no interest in receiving it because it was marked ''Copy.''
Mr. Patterson's arrest appeared to be an effort by the District Attorney's office to prevent the incident from becoming another drawn-out battle between citizens and law-enforcement officials, as in the case of Tawana Brawley. The teen-ager from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., who has indicated she was abducted by six white men and sexually abused last year, has refused to cooperate with a grand jury looking into the allegations. Her mother, Glenda, has been cited for contempt and sentenced to jail for refusing to honor a grand jury subpoena, but she has not been arrested.
Mr. Maddox is an adviser to the Brawley family, and two other advisers, C. Vernon Mason and the Rev. Al Sharpton, appeared at Manhattan Criminal Court yesterday afternoon, shortly before a hearing for Mr. Patterson on the contempt charge. They were there, Mr. Mason said, ''to show support.''
But Mr. Patterson appears to be resisting the link with the Brawley case. Although Mr. Maddox was Mr. Patterson's lawyer before the hearing, at the hearing Mr. Patterson said he would represent himself.
Both Mr. Patterson and Mr. Maddox denied that Mr. Maddox had been dismissed. ''I didn't fire him,'' Mr. Patterson said. ''I just decided the best thing to do was to proceed with it alone.''
But Mr. Patterson's wife, Elsa Rensaa, said she and her husband had become exasperated because their case was being too closely linked with the Tawana Brawley case. ''They were getting so intermixed,'' Miss Rensaa said.
After the hearing, Mr. Maddox said the arrest was ''typical of the bully-boy approach that the District Attorney's office is attempting to employ in this case. The District Attorney got frantic. He's been up against us before, and he panicked.'' Police Shown on Tape
Mr. Morgenthau was vacationing yesterday in Massachusetts but was kept apprised of the events in New York. A spokesman for Mr. Morgenthau, Gerald McKelvey, said, ''I think you can assume the District Attorney knew everything.''
The whereabouts of other versions of the tape, if they exist, were unclear yesterday. Mr. Maddox said the tape given to Representative Conyers was the only one he knew of, but a spokesman for the Congressman said the tape was marked ''Copy.'' The subpoena demands ''original and unedited'' material. Mr. Patterson said in an interview that he did not have a copy of the tape in his apartment, because he had been advised to get rid of it. But he said there was another tape somewhere in the city.
A grand jury is looking into allegations that police officers used unnecessary and excessive violence in the disturbance at Tompkins Square Park on the night of Aug. 6. The disturbance was sparked by protests over a curfew at the East Village park. Mr. Patterson's tape shows scenes of police officers using their nightsticks to subdue demonstrators, and shows some officers' badges with the numbers concealed.
The letter that Mr. Patterson and Mr. Maddox gave to the District Attorney's office requests that the grand jury ''permit the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice to exclusively investigate assertions of systemic practices and policies of police brutality by the Police Department of the city of New York.''
An assistant counsel to the House subcommittee said the tape had been mailed back to Mr. Maddox yesterday. ''Before we looked at the tape, we called the District Attorney's office because we knew there was a pending subpoena,'' said the counsel, Ronald Stroman. He said representatives of the District Attorney's office had expressed no desire to have the tape mailed to them as evidence, because it was marked ''Copy'' and the subpoena demands the original material.
Mr. McKelvey refused to comment on Mr. Stroman's statements and would not say whether Mr. Morgenthau's office would attempt to intercept the tape, which Mr. Maddox has called ''the only copy he knows of,'' before it reaches its destination.
Mr. Patterson was released on his own recognizance after the hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court before Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Lowe 3d yesterday afternoon.
The hearing, which was to be an arraignment on the civil contempt charge, was adjourned until Tuesday to give the court time to appoint a lawyer for Mr. Patterson. Mr. Patterson told Judge Lowe that he would represent himself and that he did not want a lawyer to be appointed for him. The judge, however, said he did not want to proceed with the arraignment until Mr. Patterson had a lawyer.
Judge Lowe instructed Mr. Patterson to turn over the videotape when the hearing reconvenes Tuesday. But Mr. Patterson said he did not plan to do so, despite the threat of going to jail. Mr. Patterson faces at least 90 days in jail.