A Hempstead police officer surrendered Thursday on misdemeanor charges of sex abuse, official misconduct and endangering a child's welfare in a case his attorney said was politically motivated in its timing -- days before the election for district attorney.
Veteran cop Louis Arcila, 49, of Roslyn Heights, pleaded not guilty to the three-count indictment in a Mineola court arraignment. The charges involve allegations from June.
Nassau prosecutors said Arcila, while off-duty but wearing his police shield on his waist, followed a woman from a Hempstead restaurant before getting in her car and groping her in front of her children, ages 10 and 3, as she tried to fight him off.
They alleged the encounter began when Arcila approached the woman inside, questioning why her 3-year-old was dressed in a diaper and saying he could give her a ticket.
The woman was picking up food, and her adult nephew stayed inside the business when she returned to her car, according to prosecutors. They alleged the assault ended when the nephew came outside and found Arcila groping her.
But Arcila's attorney, William Petrillo, told Judge Terence Murphy: "We are very concerned, judge, that this allegation took place back in June, yet here we are . . . one week before an election for district attorney."
The Garden City attorney also said in court that in the alleged victim's original police interview, she said Arcila "did not actually have contact with her and did not touch her inappropriately" and "never made any mention of him displaying a shield."
Petrillo said Arcila is a married father of five who has been on the Hempstead Village police force for 16 years after nine years with the NYPD. "This is an exploitation of a police officer who did not commit a crime," Petrillo told reporters.
Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas, who is running for election, denied any political motivation and said the timing was related to the case investigation and a staff change. "We will not tolerate this behavior from our uniformed officers," she said. Singas said the alleged victim "has been consistent in her statements to us and consistent with what she told 911."
The judge released Arcila on his own recognizance and the officer didn't answer questions while leaving court. He faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted of the top charge.
Hempstead Village Police Chief Michael McGowan said the department is doing an internal probe and Arcila is on modified duty. Hempstead Village police union president Frank McNamee said the union was confident Arcila will be vindicated.