A judge has denied a motion from the family of a Hofstra University student who died in a police shooting which sought a contempt order against Nassau County officials for allegedly not producing records for a legal proceeding linked to her death.
State Supreme Court Justice Karen Murphy ruled in a Dec. 2 decision that it appeared county officials, including police personnel, had complied with her 2014 order to hand over records related to the death of Andrea Rebello, a 21-year-old college junior from Tarrytown.
Rebello died on May 17, 2013, when Officer Nikolas Budimlic accidentally shot her in her off-campus apartment as parolee Dalton Smith, 30, of Hempstead, used her as a human shield during an armed home invasion, according to authorities. Budimlic also shot and killed Smith in the encounter. The Nassau district attorney’s office later decided Budimlic wouldn’t face criminal charges and had acted reasonably in the face of a deadly threat.
Since then, Rebello’s family filed lawsuits against the county and its police force in both state Supreme Court and federal court. Both cases remain pending. Murphy’s decision is part of a related effort by the plaintiffs to obtain records to use in the civil litigation.
The plaintiffs say police personnel, including 911 operators, weren’t properly trained for hostage situations and police never tried to engage Smith in hostage negotiations. The Rebellos also have alleged records police created in the case were designed to be sparse, and that police moved around evidence at the student’s Uniondale rental home as part of a cover-up to protect against civil claims.
The judge said in her decision that the plaintiff’s pursuit of a firearm discharge form in Budimlic’s personnel file wasn’t part of the party’s initial request and wasn’t included in her 2014 order. She said the same in reference to the plaintiff’s pursuit of police “memo books” from the case.
But Murphy, while citing potential future claims that could create more litigation costs for taxpayers, also said county officials could, “in their discretion, provide said items.”
The judge also affirmed her earlier decision not to hold the county responsible for certain plaintiff attorneys’ fees.
David Roth, a Manhattan attorney for the plaintiffs, said Monday he hadn’t decided yet whether to appeal any part of Murphy’s decision, but would move on with litigation in the underlying case.
Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey said in a prepared statement Monday that the county doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
A year ago, Roth submitted a legal filing seeking to question Nassau’s top police official and a department attorney under oath about the agency’s conflicting responses to Freedom of Information Act requests relating to the Rebello case.
Earlier this year, state Supreme Court Justice George Peck ruled the police attorney could be deposed, and if any inconsistencies appeared to be anything but honest mistakes, he would reconsider Roth’s request for a deposition of acting police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter.
A court spokesman said Monday the county had appealed Peck’s decision and that matter also remains pending.