MINEOLA, N.Y. — A police officer who was captured on surveillance video giving a beatdown to a motorist, with the help of his patrol partner, went to trial on Tuesday.
Nassau County Police Officer Vincent LoGiudice faces felony and misdemeanor assault charges from the April 2014 incident. He and his legal team, however, said that there’s more to the story than meets the eye, literally, and that a full examination of the case will result in the officer bring acquitted.
The video, obtained by the motorist’s attorney, shows a beatdown that lasts nearly 40 seconds.
Two officers, LoGiudice and his patrol partner, identified in court records as Basil Gomez, are seen repeatedly punching and kicking Honda driver Kyle Howell, and possibly hitting him with a police flashlight or weapon.
A judge is now examining the video in detail as part of the trial in which she will decide if LoGiudice is guilty of assault, or if his beating of Howell, 22, was justified.
In the days after the beating last spring, Howell held a news conference, in which he described his injuries.
“I have nerve damage on the left side of my face,” he began. “I have a fracture under my my orbital bone right here, my nose is fractured as well, and I also have another fracture on the side of my face.”
After the incident, prosecutors ended up dropping all charges against Howell.
But on Tuesday at court, the president of the police union said that the lack of charges did not mean that the measures LoGiudice took against Howell weren’t justified.
“Only half the story has been told,” said James Carver, the PBA president. “The story of the alleged victim here, that’s the only side, that’s the only side that’s been heard right now.”
The mother of that alleged victim said that statements like that are a ploy used by law enforcement.
“That’s something they always say,” Joanne Howell said outside of the courtroom, “so that does not surprise me. That’s something they always say to justify their actions.”
She added that she and her family felt they were lucky that her son’s traffic stop by police didn’t turn fatal, as what happened in the cases of Eric Garner in Staten Island, or Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, or other such incidents of the past year.
For his part, though, LoGiudice and his legal team have said there’s much more to the story.
“When you watch that video you can’t see what he saw,” said William Petrillo, LoGiudice’s attorney. “You can’t be thinking what we know, and what the evidence will show, he was thinking.”
LoGiudice is expected to testify to that, while Kyle Howell, the beaten up motorist, is expected to testify against LoGiudice, possibly on Wednesday.
His attorney, Amy Marion, told PIX11 News that the surveillance video that her office obtained speaks for itself.
“I don’t really need to see anything more than Officer LoGiudice repeatedly pummeling my client with his hand, his knees and a weapon” to see that he’s guilty, Marion said.
She said that to acquit LoGiudice would be a move in the direction of a police state.
“You cannot allow law enforcement to rule from the street,” Marion said in an interview. “That results in government with a bias based on a horrible speculation” in her client’s case, a speculation that he may have been involved in a crime beyond the traffic stop.
Howell was known to LoGiudice and other officers because of his criminal record, much of it for crimes committed while he was officially a juvenile.
If LoGiudice is found guilty of the most serious charges against him, he could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
Howell has filed a separate civil lawsuit, which is on hold pending a verdict in LoGiudice’s criminal trial.