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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

LoGiudice case is where it belongs: in the courts

Nassau County police Officer Vincent LoGiudice, center, appeared

Nassau County police Officer Vincent LoGiudice, center, appeared in Nassau County Court Tuesday, June 3, 2014, to face assault charges in the beating of a Westbury man during an April traffic stop. Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

The Nassau Police Benevolent Association, under president James Carver, always seems to pull out the stops when it comes to standing up for its members.

On Tuesday, that included hundreds of police officers who filled a courthouse hallway in Mineola and unleashed thunderous applause as Officer Vincent LoGiudice walked into court. It was a spectacle that the man he is accused of beating described as "despicable" after walking the gauntlet.

It is not the PBA's job to police officers, or to ensure that those suspected of abusing their power are properly investigated, and when appropriate, punished.

That job rests with the police department, Nassau's district attorney, and in LoGiudice's case, the courts.

The Nassau police department has had what seems to have become a parade of officers and former brass accused, convicted or -- in the case of one officer who shot and injured an unarmed cabdriver while off-duty -- fired for violating their oaths.

The last thing Nassau needs is another scandal.

And especially not one like this: LoGiudice is seen on video repeatedly striking Kyle Howell, 20, of Westbury, during a traffic stop in Westbury on April 25.

Howell remained in the vehicle, and we can't see what was happening in the car -- a point LoGiudice supporters make repeatedly. But we can see the officer deliver a series of blows, using his hands and a knee. The video has been seen around the world.

Howell does have a record -- another point LoGiudice supporters make repeatedly. He pleaded guilty to petty larceny and marijuana possession after police arrested him twice in 2012, according to court records.

But the issue at hand isn't Howell's past. It's whether the force LoGiudice used in April -- which left Howell with a broken nose, fractures near both eyes and facial nerve damage -- was excessive.

At the request of the Nassau district attorney's office, a judge last month dismissed charges against Howell of assaulting officers, tampering with physical evidence, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

And Tuesday's indictment of LoGiudice came as a result of District Attorney Kathleen Rice's decision to send the case to a grand jury.

Rice, a Democrat who is running for Congress, said in a prepared statement Tuesday that the community, Howell, LoGiudice and the police department "deserve a full and impartial opportunity to seek justice in this case" -- which seemed an oddly evenhanded sentiment from the office tasked with prosecuting the case.

LoGiudice is entitled to the presumption of innocence. The seven-year veteran pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, as officers lined the hallway outside.

A spokesman said the court wasn't expecting so many officers. "We are evaluating and re-evaluating our procedures and protocols, so that equal access and safety remain our top priorities," the spokesman told News 12 Long Island.

And well the court should, because an orderly, open court is exactly where this case belongs -- no matter the sentiments of a noisy crowd of officers who, in a provocative display, lined a courthouse hallway.

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