Federal investigators have subpoenaed law-enforcement records in the 2011 Huntington Station shooting of an unarmed cabdriver by an off-duty Nassau cop as they ramp up their investigation into whether law enforcement officials violated federal criminal laws, sources said.
The investigators, from the office of the United States attorney for the Eastern District and the FBI, have recently obtained records of the case from the Nassau and the Suffolk police departments, as well as the Suffolk County district attorney’s office. They have also questioned several people involved in the circumstances surrounding the shooting, the sources said.
Cabdriver Thomas Moroughan was initially charged with felony assault for allegedly attempting to run down the off-duty Nassau officer, Anthony DiLeonardo. DiLeonardo, who fired five times, said he was trying to defend himself. Moroughan, who was hit once in the arm and once in the chest, was exonerated, and the officer was fired by the Nassau County Police Department, but not charged with any crimes.
The deprivation of civil rights by law enforcement officers is among the possible federal crimes that investigators are looking into, sources said. The investigation is in a preliminary stage and no one has been charged, the sources said.
Newsday in 2013 published a report detailing the conflicting versions of events surrounding the shooting, which is within Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota’s jurisdiction.
A confidential Nassau police Internal Affairs Unit report obtained by the newspaper stated that DiLeonardo had been drinking heavily before the shooting and that he had recklessly escalated a roadside confrontation before opening fire on the cabdriver, who posed no threat.
The IAU findings contradicted statements and reports prepared by veteran officers in Nassau and Suffolk police, Newsday reported.
John Marzulli, a spokesman for Eastern District prosecutors, declined to comment on the federal probe Thursday.
Deputy Police Commissioner Justin Meyers, a spokesman for the Suffolk County police, said the department always cooperates with federal investigators, but declined to comment further. A spokesman for Nassau County police, Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, said: “It’s our policy to neither confirm nor deny an investigation by another agency.”
Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, also declined to comment.
Anthony Grandinette, Moroughan’s civil lawyer, and DiLeonardo’s attorney, Bruce Barket, declined to comment.
Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a spokeswoman for Suffolk County, had no comment. A spokesman for Nassau County did not return calls for comment.
Newsday has reported that Eastern District prosecutors and federal agents are looking into accusations involving law enforcement personnel in Suffolk County in the Moroughan case and others.
The actions taken in the Moroughan case are the first indication since the federal conviction of former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke in November that the probe is being actively pursued. Burke was sentenced to 46 months in prison then for beating a man who stole a duffle bag from his car and then orchestrating a coverup of the beating.
The investigators are trying to determine whether higher-level officials in the Nassau and Suffolk police departments, such as Burke, as well as in the Suffolk district attorney’s office, may have been involved in the initial efforts to cast Moroughan as the wrongdoer in the incident rather than DiLeonardo, the sources said.
Burke’s attorney, John Meringolo, declined to comment.
Moroughan has filed a $30 million civil lawsuit in federal court in Central Islip against Nassau and Suffolk counties, Nassau and Suffolk police departments and more than 20 police officers who were involved in various aspects of the Moroughan case.
The 2013 Newsday article said Suffolk prosecutors eventually cleared Moroughan of wrongdoing, but declined to have a grand jury continue probing possible wrongdoing by police officers, citing Moroughan’s refusal to cooperate.
Moroughan was charged with felony assault, largely on the basis of a later-discounted confession Suffolk detectives had him sign while hospitalized. The charges against him were dismissed, according to the Internal Affairs report, after Spota’s own investigator determined that DiLeonardo’s actions were unjustified.
However, Spota’s office did not convene a grand jury to probe the shooting until the publication of the Newsday article.
Newsday reported in February 2015 that Spota’s office then abandoned the grand jury inquiry despite dozens of potential witnesses to the shooting and its aftermath.
Spota said that although he believed DiLeonardo deserved to be prosecuted, his office had been “thwarted” by Moroughan’s reluctance to testify, an inability to obtain documents, and state grand-jury law concerning witness immunity.
With Bridget Murphy