Attorneys for the man whom prosecutors said suffered a beating at the hands of a Rockville Centre police officer released a cellphone video of the encounter Wednesday, as the officer’s attorney said records show the alleged victim was drunk and on cocaine at the time.
Officer Anthony Federico, 36, pleaded not guilty last month to charges including felony assault in connection with the May 8, 2016, on-duty incident outside a bar on South Park Avenue.
Prosecutors have alleged Federico hit a 25-year-old man in the head with a Taser outside the bar after a physical confrontation started, involving the officer, the alleged victim and that man’s 20-year-old brother. They’ve alleged it began as the officer tried to question the Rockville Centre brothers while investigating a fight, and that the officer allegedly used the Taser on both brothers — although only in a criminal manner against one of them.
Attorneys for both the alleged victim, Kevin Kavanagh, now 26, and Federico said Wednesday the cellphone video supports their version of events.
Federico’s attorney contends he used “reasonable and necessary” force against an intoxicated man displaying “unusually aggressive behavior.” However, the attorneys for the Kavanagh brothers claim the officer assaulted the brothers with excessive force before wrongfully arresting them on charges they said a judge recently dropped with prosecutors’ consent.
A Nassau prosecutor previously said in court that the cellphone video has “various gaps” that his office will rely on witnesses to fill, but “does speak for itself in many respects.” A spokesman for District Attorney Madeline Singas declined to comment on the video Wednesday and said her office “has a policy of not commenting on dismissed cases,” when asked about criminal charges against the Kavanaghs.
Attorney Dennis Ring, who represented Kevin Kavanagh in his criminal case, said Wednesday the video was “indisputable” evidence Federico “brutally and unjustifiably” assaulted his client. The Queens attorney also called it a desperate measure by the officer’s attorney to attack the character of the victim by “suggesting that a victim’s impairment justified a violent assault by an officer.”
Attorney Joseph Dell of Garden City — who represents Kevin Kavanagh, his brother Brendan Kavanagh, now 21, and another plaintiff in related civil claims against Federico, Rockville Centre and its police department — said Wednesday the video clearly shows “there’s nothing either brother did that would justify the assault each took.”
Dell added that “whatever was in his system that night is not a contributing factor in the assault perpetrated by this officer,” when asked about the defense’s statements about Kevin Kavanagh’s cocaine and alcohol use.
Federico’s attorney, William Petrillo of Garden City, said prosecutors recently turned over records showing Kevin Kavanagh had used cocaine and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 percent — more than double the legal threshold for intoxication — at the time in question.
“This is very important because it helps to explain what clearly was very aggressive and violent behavior towards the police officer — which helps to explain and to justify the officer’s reasonable belief that it was necessary to use the force that he did,” Petrillo said after Federico appeared in Nassau County Court on Wednesday.
“It is well known that alcohol, especially mixed with the choice of drug that night — that being cocaine, which was in the system — certainly provokes a person to aggressive behavior,” Petrillo added.
Petrillo said the elder brother hit Federico in the face before the cellphone video started. Petrillo also said the video shows Kevin Kavanagh put a hand around the officer’s neck, and another hand by his gun, and that Brendan Kavanagh kicked Federico from behind as Federico tried to control the situation with a crowd behind him and two females using “filthy” language.
“He’s using reasonable force to defend himself and to effect lawful arrests,” Petrillo said of his client.
Federico, an 11-year veteran of police work and former NYPD officer, faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted of the top charge. A grand jury indicted him on second-degree assault, third-degree assault, and two counts each of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.
About 30 supporters rallied in support of Federico outside the courthouse Wednesday, with some holding signs that said “Justice For Anthony.”