LIRR defendant performed judo, witness says
A Nesconset man earned his fourth-degree black belt in jiu-jitsu, and even gave a judo demonstration at the Pentagon, while collecting a disability pension from his former job as a Long Island Rail Road supervisor, according to court testimony Friday.
Prosecutors produced pictures and a five-minute video of Frederick Catalano, 52, grappling, flipping, kicking and engaging in a variety of movements during the Pentagon demonstration in late November 2011, and at classes at the American Jiu-Jitsu Centers in St. James.
One of his fellow jiu-jitsu enthusiasts at the St. James facility was Stephen Labate, 45, a Republican who ran against Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) last year.
Labate appeared as a witness Friday at Catalano's fraud trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and gave an in-court demonstration for the jury -- flipping and manhandling a cooperative FBI agent as some jurors grinned.
"You're introducing his head into your knee," Labate explained to the jurors as he held the agent in his grip.
Under cross-examination by Catalano's attorney, George Dazzo, Labate admitted that he was so focused on his own jiu-jitsu that he was not always watching Catalano intently.
"I never looked directly at him to observe him doing, per se, anything," Labate said.
He also conceded under questioning by Dazzo that the person on the receiving end of kicks and flips, called a "uke," usually knows the move in advance to lessen the chance of injury.
Labate, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, said he arranged for the Pentagon trip as a means of "giving something back" to soldiers, and that the head of the jiu-jitsu center selected Catalano as one of those to go.
Catalano took part in the Pentagon demonstration, but Labate said he did not watch his every move.
"It would have been very obvious if he hadn't been doing it," Labate said.
Catalano is on trial with retired LIRR conductor Michael Costanza, 60, of Merrick, before Judge Kimba Wood on charges that they finagled, with the assistance of corrupt doctors, disability pensions from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.