Did a cop assault a citizen, or was it self defense? New trial seeks answers

MINEOLA, N.Y. — A veteran police officer in a small, local department said that he was defending himself when he beat up and tasered two brothers from a prominent Nassau County family.

Officer Anthony Federico, of the Rockville Centre Police Department, also said that a cellphone video, recorded by an eyewitness at the scene, proves his self-defense alibi. Meanwhile, the woman who recorded the video says it proves that the cop assaulted her friends. Prosecutors have agreed with her, and argued against Officer Federico in the first day of his assault trial.

The video was recorded by Alyson Gallo, a woman who'd been out drinking with brothers Kevin and Brendan Kavanagh at a bar in Rockville Centre on May 8, 2016. Around 2:45 a.m., Gallo, the Kavanaugh brothers and other friends had encountered another group of people, with whom they'd had a dispute. Officer Federico was dispatched to the scene alone.

The video shows the brothers in close proximity to Officer Federico, and in physical contact with him. At court on Wednesday, the Rockville Centre police commissioner said his officer did the right thing, and that one of the Kavanaghs punched Officer Federico in the head seconds before the video started recording.

A review of the video, especially in slow motion, said Commissioner Charles Gennario, shows why Officer Federico had to defend himself.

"After the officer was punched in the face,  they grabbed him around the neck, they kicked him, they resisted his arrest," Gennario said.

Officer Federico's lawyers also say that one of the Kavanaghs tried to reach for the officer's service weapon. Commissioner Gennario agrees.

"In the officer's mind," said the commissioner, "I can see where he was concerned with maintaining his weapon."

However, Gallo, the woman who took the video, testified in court on Wednesday. It was the beginning of the prosecutors’ argument that her video shows that Federico assaulted people he was sworn to protect. Prosecutors also maintain that the officer used his Taser as a club against Kevin Kavanagh, 25, leaving him with a six centimeter gash on top of his head, that required sutures and staples to close.

Federico’s lawyers described a much different situation.

“He is a great police officer, who found himself in a dangerous situation, and who reacted professionally and appropriately,” said William Petrillo, Federico’s attorney. “Any and all force he used during those hours was reasonable, necessary and justified. He did not commit any crime on that day.”

The Kavanaghs were arrested at the scene, after backup officers arrived. All charges against the brothers were eventually dropped.

In addition to felony and misdemeanor assault charges, Federico is charged with falsifying the police report he filled out after the incident, which is also a misdemeanor. He faces up to seven years in prison if he’s found guilty of the most serious charge.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.