Teens arrested in Rockville Centre beating

William Moore and Matthew Diperna, both 18, have

William Moore and Matthew Diperna, both 18, have been arrested on a charge of felony gang assault after police say they and a group of drunken South Side High School students beat a man after they accosted his wife and he demanded they apologize. (June 22, 2012) (Credit: NCPD)

Drunken high schoolers in Rockville Centre beat a man with punches, kicks and beer cans after he demanded they apologize for accosting his wife, village police said.

Two of the alleged attackers have been arrested on a charge of felony gang assault. Police said there may have been as many as eight young men involved and that more arrests are possible.

The arrested teens were South Side High School students William Moore of 4 Broadway, and Matthew Diperna of Hempstead Avenue, both 18, police said.

Diperna's attorney said his client wasn't involved in accosting the woman, and the teens were only defending themselves. Moore's attorney couldn't be reached.

The incident began about midnight Monday when a woman, 41, out walking her dog was accosted on Roxen Road between North Village Avenue and Hempstead Avenue by a group of apparently intoxicated teenagers, who threatened or catcalled her, police said.

"It frightened her, whatever they were doing," Rockville Centre Lt. James Vafeades said.

The woman rushed home and told her husband, 43, who went looking for the teens to ask them to apologize to her, police said.

The couple located them within a few blocks. When the husband asked for the apology, the situation escalated, Vafeades said, and the beating began.

"They had him on the ground. They're throwing beer cans at him, they kicked him," Vafeades said.

Court records show he was hit in the face, head and body.

The alleged attack happened in two parts: After the initial beating, Moore approached the victim and struck the man in the head, causing the victim to fall into a planter and then onto the sidewalk, where "he laid motionless for a period of time before struggling to get up," according to a summary of a witness account in court records.

The victim was treated at Mercy Medical Center for facial trauma, swelling to the jaw and other injuries and released the next morning, police said. He had a fractured rib and needed 15 stitches to his lip, police said.

The two teens arrested were found because witnesses either knew their names or identified them from photos, police said.

Diperna's attorney, John R. Lewis Jr., said his client wasn't involved in making the comments to the woman, and that the accuser "threw the first punch" and the other teens were defending themselves. "He's a vigilante," Lewis said. "He tracked down the boys and started the altercation."

Asked about Lewis' version of events, Vafeades said investigators have no evidence that the victim began the physical fight.

Court records list Moore's lawyer as Christopher Bechtle, who didn't return a call seeking comment.

Superintendent William Johnson said the Rockville Centre School District's attorneys concluded the teens could not be prevented from being at graduation -- and now that they're graduates the school has no jurisdiction over them anyway. He said he didn't know if they attended the ceremony.

With Nathaniel Herz

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