The felony assault trial of a Rockville Centre police officer began Wednesday with the prosecution claiming the veteran cop “violated his duty in the most egregious way” by clubbing a man’s head with a Taser after a fight outside a bar.
An attorney for Officer Anthony Federico countered that his client used justified force during a struggle with a drunken and “coked-up” 25-year-old who punched the officer in the face amid a hostile crowd that included the man’s younger brother, who kicked Federico.
Federico, 37, of Nesconset, waived a jury as his trial started in Nassau County Court before acting State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn. Besides felony assault, the officer is accused of misdemeanor charges of assault, offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Cavallo said Federico was in “total control” and “acted out of vengeance and anger,” when striking victim Kevin Kavanagh over the head on May 8, 2016 as the man was in a fetal position on the ground. Federico, who had responded to investigate the initial street fight, then falsified paperwork to say Kavanagh suffered the head wound in the earlier brawl, the prosecutor said.
Cavallo called a cellphone video that witness Alyson Gallo recorded “critical,” saying it would prove Federico alone caused the 6-centimeter laceration that penetrated the victim’s skull.
But defense attorney William Petrillo said that video showed Federico “literally under attack” while defending himself alone during a physical confrontation with the brothers as Gallo shouted anti-police vulgarities. He called “any and all force” Federico used “reasonable and justified” in the encounter in which Federico arrested Kevin Kavanagh, his brother Brendan Kavanagh, then 20, and Gallo, then 25.
Authorities later dropped charges against the trio.
The prosecution said Federico encountered the Kavanaghs at about 2:45 a.m. while trying to question them as Brendan helped Kevin off the ground after the initial street fight. They’ve said a struggle between the officer and the Rockville Centre siblings began that led the officer to first use his Taser on both of them legally before committing the illegal assault when he hit the top of Kevin Kavanagh’s head.
The defense said Kevin Kavanagh struck Federico in the face before the cellphone video began, and later grabbed Federico in a headlock and put another hand by the officer’s gun.
Gallo testified Wednesday she saw Federico get on top of Kevin Kavanagh and hit him in the head with his Taser when Kavanagh wasn’t lashing out. The Smithtown woman said someone got in her way so she couldn’t record that action, which she said left her friend’s face bloody and like something in “a horror film.”
As her cross-examination began, Gallo agreed she’d already testified before Quinn that she saw Kevin Kavanagh land on the back of his head in the initial fight. She then acknowledged she hadn’t mentioned the area of Kavanagh’s initial head injury in grand jury or civil proceeding testimony.
Federico, who spent 8 years with NYPD before joining the village police force 5 years ago, faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted of the top count.