An Editor’s Note published July 12, 2017, about Kevin Deutsch’s reporting appears at the end of this story.
Family and friends of a former Levittown firefighter killed in a bar fight in October -- and whose death was ruled a homicide -- are calling on the Nassau district attorney's office to file more serious charges against his alleged attacker.
So far, prosecutors have charged Robert Roll, 30, with third-degree assault -- a misdemeanor -- for allegedly punching Keith Satriana in the head outside Shooters Tiki & Sports Bar in Wantagh at 4:30 a.m. Oct. 27, court records show. Satriana, 45, was felled by the punch and hit his head on the pavement, the records show.
Records referencing the homicide -- which authorities had not previously disclosed -- were obtained by Newsday from the Nassau County Police Department.
"He deserves justice just like any other victim of a homicide," said Satriana's longtime friend Jack DiPietro of Levittown. "Keith would still be alive if he hadn't been assaulted. There has to be a greater price to pay."
Prosecutors say they have not closed the door on upgrading charges against Roll.
"No final determination has been made as yet to the charges because the investigation is ongoing," the office said.
According to records and two law-enforcement sources with knowledge of the case, Roll left the bar after the assault and was not arrested until a month later, on Nov. 27. The Baldwin resident was released the same day on $2,000 cash bail, records show.
The delay in arresting Roll was partially a result of multiple witnesses at the bar initially telling police there was no fight -- and that Satriana had simply fallen and hit his head, the sources said.
Later, several witnesses changed their stories, telling investigators Satriana had instigated a fight with Roll inside the bar before the younger man punched him outside, the sources said.
At least one witness also claimed Roll had repeatedly kicked Satriana in the head after he fell, the sources said.
As part of their probe, investigators are reviewing enhanced video surveillance from the bar, a third law-enforcement source said.
Roll's lawyer, Phil Solages of Hauppauge, said he could not discuss the case in detail because the investigation is ongoing.
"My client Robert Roll maintains his innocence in this unfortunate situation," Solages said.
Roll could not be reached for comment.
Satriana's ex-wife says the incident outside Shooters left her to raise their young son and daughter -- and she believes a manslaughter or murder charge is justified in the case.
"It's not fair that he's charged with assault when my kids are left without their father," said the North Bellmore woman, who asked that her name not be used because she fears for her safety. "People need to tell the whole truth about what happened that night. Keith deserves justice."
Don Epple, second deputy chief of the Levittown Fire Department, said Satriana volunteered with the department for at least 10 years. "He was a great guy who was always there for you," Epple said.
Fred Klein, a law professor at Hofstra University and former chief of the major offense bureau in the Nassau district attorney's office, said it would be difficult for prosecutors to justify a manslaughter or murder case based on the current evidence laid out in court papers.
But if witness statements or surveillance video suggest Roll did more than punch Satriana, upgraded charges could be warranted, he said. "That would change the situation," Klein said.
If convicted of third-degree assault, Roll would face a maximum of three years probation or one year in jail.
Roll has been convicted on two counts of criminal mischief and two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, court records show.
Satriana has been convicted of operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol and attempted criminal contempt, court records show.
Satriana, a construction worker and home inspector, had planned to help DiPietro fix up his home the morning he was assaulted, DiPietro said.
"What happened to Keith breaks all our hearts," he said.
Editor’s note: Newsday undertook an extensive, four-month review of reporting by Kevin Deutsch, who covered law enforcement from April 2012 to September 2016.
The review of the former Newsday reporter’s work began after The Baltimore Sun this year reported that law enforcement and other officials questioned the veracity of Deutsch’s nonfiction book “Pill City” about Baltimore’s drug trade. In addition, questions arose about individuals named in Newsday stories by Deutsch. Book publisher St. Martin’s Press and Deutsch have said they stand behind the book.
We are dedicated to accurate, factual reporting, to the highest journalistic standards and to maintaining our credibility with Newsday readers. We also are committed to being accountable to our readers. Newsday undertook the detailed review in that spirit and because of the concerns that were raised.
In late February, as our review was under way, The New York Times reported in an editor’s note that The Times “had been unable to locate or confirm the existence of two people who were named and quoted” in a Dec. 29, 2016, freelance article written by Deutsch. Deutsch “maintains that the interviews and the descriptions are accurate,” The Times wrote.
Newsday reviewed 600 stories with reporting by Deutsch. We contacted officials in the police departments regularly involved in Deutsch’s coverage. They said they had not had problems with his work. We then focused our research and reporting on individuals who, as described in the stories, would not be considered officials, or well-known, public figures.
The review found 77 stories with 109 individuals from Deutsch’s reporting whom Newsday could not locate. The main points of the stories were not affected. While two stories about the Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen were based on sources Newsday could not locate, other media reported the main points of those stories but with attribution from different sources. In this story, Newsday could not locate: Jack DiPietro. Newsday is attaching an editor’s note to each story online that contains individuals we cannot locate.
Here’s how Newsday conducted the review:
Researchers and reporters searched local and national public records, sites providing nationwide people searches, databases of business, real estate and conviction records, social media sites including Facebook, LinkedIn and Ancestry.com and nationwide news archives. They searched potential alternate spellings and other name variations. Their reporting followed potential leads they found through research, within stories and in information shared by Deutsch during the review.
Finding people after publication, in some cases years later, can be difficult because of changes in residence, circumstance and contact information. Some may not have given their real names.
On the law enforcement beat, reporters may encounter people who lead lives that are not reflected in public records or other sources of information that would help locate them. It is possible that some on our list were difficult to find or reluctant to respond to our review because they are undocumented immigrants, those battling or recovering from addiction or people involved in or around illegal activity.
Some on our list were described discussing crimes in their neighborhoods, and others as relatives, friends or neighbors of victims or as individuals living near or knowing those accused of crimes.
Others we have not been able to locate, though, are described as bystanders, neighbors, spectators, relatives of drug victims, witnesses to news events or related in some way to people in the news. Still others are described in stories as people actively engaged in public issues, such as activists, protesters and marchers. Many individuals on the list are described as local.
Deutsch said in email exchanges with Newsday that “I have no doubt about the veracity of the claims of the sources I quoted.” He also said, “Not a single public official, source, or other interviewee has raised any issues with even one of these stories.”
“It's impossible for any reporter to know whether the name given to him by interviewees on the street--or those reached briefly by phone or email-- is that person's full and legal name, rather than an alias or variation of their real name (maiden names and certain common nicknames/abbreviations for first names are often published by newspapers, including Newsday.). But every one of the names on Newsday’s list was the name given to me by that interview subject, verbatim.”
During the four months of our review, Newsday shared questions and updates with Deutsch as we progressed in the search for individuals we could not locate. We requested notes and contact information. Deutsch sent us notes he said represented all individuals we were unable to locate and responded over the course of the review by email, sharing information he said was from his recollection and notes.
Reporters followed up on all information shared by Deutsch. He did not provide contact information for those on our list. Newsday reporters and editors sought unsuccessfully several times to meet with Deutsch to discuss his reporting and to review his notes together to ensure we were not missing contact information or other details that might help locate individuals. Deutsch maintained that the notes he shared “serve as evidence of interviews” with each source.
Deutsch said he kept contact information in a Rolodex he left behind at Newsday’s main office and in a company-issued cellphone he returned within a week after resigning on Sept. 6, 2016. Editorial staff did not find a Rolodex or other notes at our office, but found notes left at Newsday’s desk at a courthouse pressroom where he worked. We shared them with Deutsch and he confirmed they were his. As per company policy, the contents of the cellphone had been deleted immediately after Deutsch returned it to Newsday.
Maintaining the trust of our readers is essential to our mission. If we are able subsequently to locate any individuals, we will update our stories.