A judge is deciding if a Rockville Centre police officer criminally assaulted a bar patron who’d been in a street fight by clubbing his head with a Taser, or used justifiable force to arrest the intoxicated college student.
Lawyers gave closing arguments Monday in Officer Anthony Federico’s Nassau County Court trial. He’s accused of a felony assault count that carries a penalty of up to 7 years in prison as well as misdemeanor charges of assault, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.
Prosecutors contend that after using excessive force in the May 8, 2016, encounter on South Park Avenue in Rockville Centre, the veteran law enforcement officer lied in paperwork about how the alleged victim in the case suffered a 6-centimeter laceration that penetrated to his skull.
But defense attorney William Petrillo told acting State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn on Monday that the prosecution was “a disgrace” and his client should be acquitted.
“I believe it’s very clear that they haven’t come close to meeting the burden on any of these counts,” the Garden City attorney said.
In contrast, prosecutor Robert Cavallo told the judge Federico “was guided by anger, revenge, poor judgment and a distorted sense of justice,” and victimized Kevin Kavanagh, then 25, instead of protecting the village resident.
“He made the decision literally to take matters into his own hands and to punish Kevin Kavanagh for daring to lay a hand on him,” the prosecutor added.
Prosecutors have said Federico, 37, of Nesconset, got into a struggle with Kevin Kavanagh and his brother, Brendan Kavanagh, then 20, after responding to a report of a street fight they were involved in after leaving a bar.
They’ve alleged the officer used the Taser on both of the brothers legally, before illegally hitting the older sibling on the head while he was in a fetal position and causing the serious wound.
However, the defense claims Federico used “reasonable and justified” force to subdue the brothers and arrest them and their friend, Alyson Gallo, then 25, who made a cellphone video of the encounter that became critical evidence in the case.
Petrillo told the judge Monday that Gallo’s video “entirely supports Officer Federico,” while the prosecution also contends that it proves their case against the cop. He joined the village police force five years ago after eight years with the NYPD.
Prosecutors have alleged Federico falsified paperwork by writing that Kevin Kavanagh’s head injury was the result of the earlier street fight — in which testimony showed he was flipped over on his head. But the defense says the officer saw blood in Kevin Kavanagh’s hair when he first approached him and “there was nothing to conceal” in his police report.
Petrillo told the judge Federico believes his Taser never had contact with the alleged victim’s head and the prosecution would never prove otherwise.
“This is not a cop with a vengeance,” the Garden City defense attorney said, calling the officer’s actions “perfectly proper.”
It’s expected that Quinn will announce his verdict in the case Tuesday afternoon.