Thomas Hoey assault trial begins in state court

Tom Hoey, left, and Tom Hoey Jr. in Tom Hoey, left, and Tom Hoey Jr. in front of Long Island Banana Co., in Lynbrook on May 5, 1997. Photo Credit: Newsday / Julia Gaines

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Long Island businessman Thomas Hoey should be found guilty of a bloody attack on his girlfriend outside her East Side apartment in 2012 despite the fact that the woman refuses to testify, prosecutors said as the produce mogul's assault trial began Monday.

In a domestic violence case, prosecutor Lawrence Newman told jurors during opening statements in state court in Manhattan, "It's not unusual for a victim to not want to come forward. It's quite common."

But a defense lawyer for Hoey, president of the Long Island Banana Corp. of Lynbrook, said testimony from a meddling neighbor, an expert and relatives of the girlfriend who say the relationship was unhealthy is no substitute for a victim.

"The only evidence you will hear is what someone believes happened," said Joseph Conway of Mineola. " . . . No one will testify that they saw an assault. And nobody's going to raise their right hand and say they actually were assaulted that night."

Hoey, 46, of Garden City, is jailed awaiting trial on more serious federal charges that he supplied the cocaine that killed a woman during a sex party in 2009 and suborned perjury. His company, a regional fruit distributor, filed for bankruptcy protection in April.

In the state case, Manhattan prosecutors have charged him with a misdemeanor assault on the girlfriend, and with felony evidence tampering, saying he was trying to clean up blood. The girlfriend was present in court with her lawyer, but declined to comment.

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Newman said the case began when a neighbor heard the girlfriend "whimpering" and crying, "No, no, no" and "Please stop" in a stairwell of their apartment building. When the neighbor opened the door, Hoey was holding her wrist and the woman's face was "covered in blood," the prosecutor said.

When she declined to accept help, the neighbor called police, but she wouldn't cooperate. Newman said police saw blood in her hair and blood on the scene, but Hoey told them he "scratched his own nose picking it."

Conway said Hoey and his girlfriend had been out drinking, got off the elevator at the wrong floor and she was injured walking up the stairs. "The combination of high heels, too much to drink and a long dress made it very difficult," he said.

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He blamed the prosecution on the neighbor. "What this case is really about is someone, perhaps with good intentions, coming out and making wrong assumptions," the lawyer argued.

Newsday does not identify the names of victims or alleged victims of domestic abuse.

Testimony is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

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