Couple alleges hate crime at pizzeria

Willie Marshall, center, and his wife Alfie Marshall,

Willie Marshall, center, and his wife Alfie Marshall, right, speak to the media about being assaulted at a local pizza place in Greenlawn. (Nov. 30, 2012) (Credit: Ed Betz)

The Suffolk district attorney’s office is asking county police to further investigate what it described as “the apparently unprovoked attack” on a couple at a Huntington pizza parlor as a possible hate crime.

Police charged restaurant workers and brothers Frank Meringolo, 25, and Michael Meringolo, 20, both of Melville, with misdemeanor assault in the Nov. 24 incident.

But at a news conference with clergy and other supporters at their church in Huntington on Friday, the alleged victims, Willie Marshall, 60, and his wife, Alfie Jean Marshall, 65, of West Babylon, demanded more serious charges.

The Marshalls, who are black, said one of the men jeered, “This one’s for Obama,” as they kicked Willie Marshall.

Richard Toscani, a Huntington attorney in the office representing the Meringolo brothers, said the two pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance. They are tentatively due back in court on Dec. 19.

“Both of my clients deny all of the allegations and maintain their innocence,” Toscani said.

But in a statement, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said he is asking police to revisit the case in an expeditious manner.

“Please be advised that the matter has been returned to the Suffolk County Police Department for a further and more complete investigation, and in particular, a determination as to whether hate crime charges should be brought against the defendants,” the statement said.

In a statement Friday night, Suffolk police said the department was “continuing its investigation to determine if additional charges are appropriate.”

The alleged victims said they had just finished cleaning Joshua Baptist Church — as they have on Tuesdays and Saturdays for years — when they went for takeout about a mile away, at Paesano II on Broadway, which they had visited in the past.

Willie Marshall said his $5 worth of takeout slices stuck to the bag, and one of the suspects refused his request for new slices. Alfie Jean Marshall said she then asked for new slices, and when refused, asked for a refund.

“That’s when they started yelling and cursing and saying things,” she said, referring to racial epithets.

As they started to leave without resolution, Alfie Jean Marshall said, she was hit in the head with a glass cheese container that had been thrown, opening a wound in her head.

Willie Marshall then fought with the two men, who he said were “stomping” him and fractured his cheek. During the fracas, one of the suspects made the Obama comment, he said.

Part of the fight, which spilled outside, was caught on a nearby store surveillance camera, said J. Stewart Moore, the Central Islip attorney representing the Marshalls. He applauded Spota for seeking further investigation.

“It would appear to me to be logical for the DA’s office and police to find in fact there was a bias crime,” he said.

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