A Nassau County police officer was criminally charged Tuesday with felony and misdemeanor assault counts for allegedly brutalizing a Westbury man during a traffic stop last month.
The officer, Vincent LoGiudice, 34, appeared at the Nassau County Court to face criminal charges that include two counts of second-degree assault and third-degree assault. A grand jury indicted the 7-year veteran officer on the felony and misdemeanor charges in late May. If convicted, LoGiudice – who surrendered himself to investigators earlier Tuesday – could potentially face up to seven years in prison.
The charges stem from an incident on April 25 when LoGiudice and his partner, Basil Gomez, pulled over 20-year-old Kyle Howell in Westbury. A surveillance video from a nearby business captured the traffic stop and appears to show the officers punching and kicking Howell. In the indictment, prosecutors said LoGiudice “did repeatedly strike Kyle Howell in the face and head with a hard object causing him to suffer facial bruising, swelling and substantial pain.” Gomez was not named or charged in the indictment.
When Howell was arrested, LoGiudice had claimed in court papers that there was a “violent struggle” and that Howell punched and kicked at the cops after he allegedly tried to swallow a bag of marijuana. He was also charged with tampering with evidence. Howell denied all those allegations.
LoGiudice was released Tuesday without bail. His attorney, William Petrillo, said his client was “absolutely overcome with emotion” that hundreds of fellow police officers packed the courthouse to show support. He also defended LoGiudice’s actions, saying: “Every action taken by this police officer and his partner in this case was reasonable.” He said his client is a “dedicated, active police officer, whose hard work over the last seven years has led to hundreds of arrests.”
“After a full and fair presentation of the facts, a grand jury has indicted Officer LoGiudice,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. “The charges the grand jury has returned represent serious allegations that will be prosecuted aggressively by my office.”
After the court proceeding, Howell said it was “despicable” that the droves of officers poured into the courthouse to support LoGiudice. “It’s just very sad to know they are supporting this behavior.” He said he was ready to testify in court and feels “like justice is on its way.”
Nassau County PBA President James Carver questioned why the district attorney’s office asked for criminal charges against Howell to be dropped. “The charges against him were dropped in exchange for his testimony,” Carver charged. Shams Tarek, a spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, later said the charges were dismissed “based on our investigation and by operation of law.”
Howell has filed a notice of claim – a first step in a civil lawsuit against the county, police and a local hospital – alleging false arrest, excessive force and malicious prosecution in the case. Speaking about the lawsuit, Carver said: “Everybody wants money.”
LoGiudice is due back in court on July 2.