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A Long Island police officer who was recorded punching and kicking a man during a traffic stop has been acquitted on felony assault charges.
Nassau County Court Judge Patricia Harrington issued the verdict Friday following a non-jury trial that concluded Nov. 24.
Nassau County Police Officer Vincent LoGiudice was accused of beating motorist Kyle Howell so severely while trying to arrest him that Howell needed surgery for broken bones in his face.
Prosecutors said LoGiudice used excessive force after Howell tried to empty a bag of marijuana hidden in his glove compartment.
Charges were filed after video of the encounter surfaced. In the video, LoGiudice and another officer are seen speaking with Howell briefly before LoGiudice walks behind the car and then runs back to the passenger-side door. The officers, who are white, then appear to begin punching and kicking Howell inside the car. Howell, who is black, claimed the encounter was racially motivated.
In issuing the verdict, Harrington said “the video doesn’t tell the whole story.” She accepted LoGiudice’s claim that he feared for his life when Howell reached into his glove compartment.
Howell was in court for the verdict; he left the building without comment. His supporters walked out of court holding their hands in the air, later chanting, “Don’t shoot, don’t beat me.”
Howell’s mother called the justice system “broken.” Earlier this year, her son filed a federal lawsuit against LoGiuidice and the other officer involved in the traffic stop.
The family wants federal prosecutors to look at the case to, in one lawyer’s words, “clean out the sewer that is Nassau County justice.”
LoGiudice would have faced up to seven years in prison if convicted of felony assault and one year in prison if convicted of misdemeanor assault.
His attorney called the judge’s acquittal “the only verdict possible.”
Published at 10:43 AM EST on Dec 11, 2015
From police chief to perp: FBI case against James Burke isn’t over
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — When recently retired Chief of Department, James Burke, appeared in handcuffs with FBI agents Wednesday, the Suffolk County Police and other law enforcement knew the FBI wasn’t finished with its investigation.
It may be just the beginning.
Burke is charged with violating the civil rights of a Smithtown man, by beating him—after Christopher Loeb was arrested for breaking into Burke’s department vehicle in 2012—and stealing Burke’s bag, which contained not only a gun and ammunition—but also sex toys and porn.
PIX11’s James Ford followed the investigation into the beating for more than two years, which culminated in Burke’s arrest Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors were apparently able to “flip” police witnesses, who may have lied initially about what they saw inside the Fourth Precinct.
Burke faces a second federal count of conspiracy to obstruct a federal, civil rights investigation.
Burke has a long history with law enforcement, beginning when he was a 14 year old witness in a brutal murder case, involving a 13-year old boy who had stones shoved down his throat in 1979.
The victim was John Pius, and Burke served as the teen witness against other suspects, who were charged with killing Pius, because he witnessed them stealing a mini-bike.
The young prosecutor at the time was Thomas Spota, now the Suffolk County District Attorney.
James Burke was the top investigator in Spota’s office, at one point, before he was recommended for the Chief of Department’s job with Suffolk Police.
When PIX11 contacted Spota’s office Wednesday for comment, we did not receive a response.
Burke has been remanded into federal detention, until his next hearing on Friday.
This case is not the first time Burke was investigated; back in the early 1990’s, he was monitored by Internal Affairs for his relationship with a prostitute.
But he moved on in his career, and his defense attorney, Joseph Conway, said Wednesday of the unsealed, federal indictment “we contest that these things ever happened.”
Ex-Cop Wanted in Long Island Wife’s Killing Found in Woods Upstate: Police
A former cop wanted for questioning in the death of his wife on Long Island was taken into custody after a standoff in an upstate forest, state police said.
Paul Leitgeb, a 49-year-old former NYPD officer, was found near the Appalachian Trail in the town of Pawling by state police Tuesday evening, police said. State police had dispatched a bloodhound unit and an aviation unit to the woods after Suffolk police asked them for help locating Leitgeb, who they believed was in the area.
Leitgeb was armed with a box cutter and threatening to hurt himself and police, and after a long standoff with troopers, he was taken into police custody.
Police had been looking to speak with Leitgeb after finding his wife, Tricia Odierna, dead inside the Lake Grove home they shared with their five children, including twins, last Thursday.
Leitgeb was turned over to Suffolk police detectives, who were also on the scene, police said. He was taken by ambulance to Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie with self-inflicted wounds to his wrist and throat. He was then transported to a hospital in Suffolk County.
Leitgeb has been charged with second-degree murder. He’s scheduled to be arraigned when he’s released from the hospital.
The family was a fixture in the neighborhood, and Odierna was remembered for her bright smile and vibrant laugh, always surrounded by her children, according to friends and neighbors.
Attorney information for Leitgeb was not immediately available.
Videos Key in Nassau Police Brutality Claim
by Timothy Bolger on May 6, 2014
Nassau County police officers allegedly beat a 20-year-old Westbury man when he tried to record a video of the incident after they pulled his car over last month, according to his attorneys.
Kyle Howell said he started recording the undercover officers with his cell phone after they told him he was stopped for having a cracked windshield. The video cut out after he reached for his paycheck that blew away when they opened his car door on April 25.
“Next thing I knew I had a knee to the face,” Howell—who wore sunglasses to hide broken blood vessels in both eyes—told reporters Tuesday during a news conference at his attorney’s Garden City office. “After that, I don’t remember much.”
His lawyer, Amy Marion, said that she filed a notice of claim on Monday, the first step in filing a lawsuit against the department, seeking unspecified damages. A police spokeswoman declined to comment, citing department policy on pending litigation. A spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said her office is investigating the allegations.
Although the video Howell tried to record was cut short, his attorneys said they recovered another video of the alleged police brutality from a nearby surveillance camera. Another cell phone video Howell said he made when he was stopped by police in January is in the hands of investigators, his attorneys added.
“One of these officers that were a part of the attack threatened that he was physically going to force me to stop using my cell phone to record [them] anytime I was pulled over,” Howell said of the prior recording. “It’s the only protection that I have against them.”
His family added that he’s been pulled over more than a dozen times in the past 18 months, which they characterized as excessive. His lawyer said that many of those stops included vehicle searches that ended in minor traffic violations. Howell said he pleaded guilty to petit larceny and marijuana possession two years ago.
He pleaded not guilty to the latest charges, which include possession of cocaine, marijuana possession, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, driving with a broken windshield, speeding and tampering with evidence. The officers alleged that he was trying to swallow marijuana, but his attorneys said he was only chewing gum.
He neither assaulted the officers nor had drugs on him, his lawyers maintained. He was released on $10,000 bail and is due back in criminal court Tuesday. His outraged parents want the charges dropped.
Howell, a motorcycle shop worker, said he suffered three broken bones in his face and has surgery scheduled to fix his eye.
Nassau Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) issued a statement saying that she was shocked after watching the video.
“I urge the district attorney and NCPD’s internal affairs officials to conduct the most thorough investigation of this highly disturbing incident,” she said. “If it is confirmed that the two police officers’ actions were wrongful and unwarranted, I will call for the maximum disciplinary measures and criminal penalties available.”
NYC man files lawsuit alleging Suffolk police officer threatened him after traffic stop
Apr 22, 2014 7:07 AM EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — A Brooklyn man has sued a Suffolk County police officer for allegedly threatening to beat him after a traffic stop.
Sandino Hazzard says his civil rights were violated when the officer pulled him over in North Babylon and falsely arrested him on Aug. 15, 2012.
According to Newsday ( http://nwsdy.li/1lAkhd5 ), his attorney says the officer drove Hazzard in a squad car to a wooded area and threatened him. Amy Marion says Hazzard was then taken to the precinct where he was “made to strip and stand naked in the jail cell.”
He’s seeking a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages.
The suit says charges of disorderly conduct against Hazzard and a ticket for a defective brake light were later dismissed.
Suffolk police declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Suffolk Police Sergeant Accused Of Stealing From Drivers During Traffic Stops Pleads Not Guilty
March 24, 2014 2:16 PM
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Suffolk County police officer accused of targeting Hispanic drivers and stealing cash from them during traffic stops has pleaded not guilty to upgraded charges, including grand larceny as a hate crime.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said while on patrol, Sgt. Scott Greene, 50, of Shirley, would target Hispanic drivers, pull them over, search their cars and steal whatever cash he could find.
The 25-year veteran was arrested on Jan 30. during an undercover sting operation. He was caught on surveillance video allegedly taking $100 cash from the front seat of a car driven by a Hispanic undercover detective.
At the time of Greene’s arrest, he was suspected in at least three incidents, but Spota said Monday that 22 Hispanic men came forward and “six people positively identified Greene as the person who had stolen money from them.”
“There were some who were drivers, some who were passengers and even one who was walking,” said Irma Solis of the advocacy group Make The Road. “Those who did come forward decided to do so to make sure that they put an end to this.”
The alleged traffic stops and thefts occurred in Farmingville, Medford and Coram, according to prosecutors. Each victim was robbed of approximately $50 to $100, authorities said.
Greene, who has since retired from the police force, was released on his own recognizance.
“He’s brought discredit and shame to the badge that he once wore, but he will never wear again,” Spota said.
Suffolk Cops Use of Stun Gun Investigated
By Rashed Mian on May 30th, 2012
The Suffolk County Police Department is conducting an investigation into the arrest of a Copiague man Tuesday night after video surfaced of cops purportedly using a stun gun while he was being held down.
Police arrested 21-year-old Jeu Gonzalez on charges of harassment, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, for an incident that occurred just before 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of Amerigo Vespucci Avenue and Dixon Avenue, a police spokeswoman said.
Police did not say what prompted police involvement.
Gonzalez’s friend told News 12 Long Island that she locked her keys in her car near a Copiague deli and asked him for help.
Moments later, police were on the scene and arrested Gonzalez, witnesses told the local cable news channel. But before he was taken into custody three officers were captured on amateur video struggling with Gonzalez while he was on the ground.
A police spokeswoman confirmed that a stun gun was used in the arrest.
Gonzalez’s friend said police punched him in his back while he was face down on the ground and used a stun gun. She said he was “screaming in agony.”
“The SCPD has been conducting a full and complete investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the events leading up to the arrest and as to whether the arresting officers’ actions in effecting the arrest were legally justified,” the department said in a statement.
“And we encourage anyone who has information regarding the incident to come forward, including the woman who claims to possess the video. We have been requesting the video since News 12 made us aware of its existence last evening. The video would be material to aiding us in our investigation.”
Gonzalez was taken to a nearby hospital following the incident. He is expected to be arraigned Wednesday.
Originally published: August 28, 2009 8:05 PM
Updated: August 28, 2009 9:38 PM
By BILL MASON AND ZACHARY R. DOWDY. firstname.lastname@example.org,, email@example.com
A Queens man has been awarded about $460,000 in federal civil court on his claim that Suffolk police officers brutalized him and violated his civil rights after he was arrested in 2006 on a misdemeanor charge.
Rafael Weizmann’s lawyer said Weizmann, 62, broke down in tears in court in Brooklyn on Thursday when the seven-member jury came back with the decision in his favor. They deliberated several hours after a nearly weeklong trial.
“He felt that finally, he received vindication,” said Earl Ward of Manhattan. “This entire incident totally changed his life. His physical injuries have healed, but he is still being treated for the emotional trauma.”
Suffolk Attorney Christine Malafi said the jurors likely were confused in returning the verdict and giving him such a high award. She added Weizmann produced documentation for $4,000 in medical expenses.
“We may be making a motion to set aside that portion of the verdict,” she said. “Clearly, the police acted appropriately.”
Weizmann, a hairdresser from Forest Hills, was driving on Sept. 27, 2006, in Coram, where he had bought a second home a few months earlier, Ward said. He pulled over to check e-mail near Paul’s Path, where Suffolk police had a sting operation under way aimed at capturing men seeking prostitutes, Ward said.
Ward said although Weizmann was not there for sex, he was arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution. He was handcuffed and taken by police car to a nearby processing area.
There, still handcuffed, “they dragged him out of the car, picked him up and slammed him to the ground,” Ward said. “Mr. Weizmann was called a ‘– Jew’ right before they threw him to the ground.”
He suffered several broken ribs, a broken clavicle and a contusion to the lung, Ward said.
Weizmann agreed to plead guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct and paid a $200 fine, Ward said.
The federal court jury awarded Weizmann $188,000 in medical expenses, $250,000 for pain and suffering and $25,000 in punitive damages, Ward said.
Weizmann spent a number of days in the hospital after the incident, Ward said, and a short time later, he gave up his home in Coram. “He was fearful of the police there,” Ward said. “He didn’t feel safe in Suffolk County anymore.”