A Westbury man has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Nassau County and two of its police officers following an April 2014 traffic stop that was caught on video and in which he alleges they beat him "relentlessly," breaking his jaw, nose and an eye socket.
Kyle Howell's federal complaint, filed Wednesday in Central Islip, claims officers Vincent LoGiudice and Basil Gomez "had no reasonable justification for the degree of violence they inflicted," and also accuses them of tampering with evidence and turning away medical help at the scene.
LoGiudice, 35, has pleaded not guilty to three assault charges, including two felonies, in connection with the Westbury traffic stop. He is awaiting trial in Nassau County Court in September.
Howell's attorney, Amy Marion of Garden City, said Thursday that the police officers and the county should be held liable for their actions. Though prosecutors didn't charge Gomez criminally, she alleged the video showed the officer punched her client and was "sitting on top of Kyle . . . to allow LoGiudice to assault him."
The lawsuit says Howell didn't resist arrest and didn't pose "any meaningful threat" to the officers, as he was "alone in his car, brandished no weapons, and did not attempt to flee."
The claim, which asks for a jury trial, also accuses the county of failing to train officers in the proper use of force. It claims the county has a custom of creating a paper trail to justify assaults by its officers, and of failing to punish officers who act in an unconstitutional way.
Spokesmen for the county and police department declined to comment Thursday on the lawsuit.
"People are within their legal rights to file lawsuits," Nassau police union president James Carver said Thursday in reaction to Howell's filing. "At the end of the day, the evidence will show that this was a lawful arrest" of Howell.
Garden City attorney William Petrillo, who represents LoGiudice, said regardless of which court the case was heard in, "the use of force remains necessary, reasonable and justified under any standard."
LoGiudice and Gomez had arrested Howell, now 21, alleging he tried to eat a bag of marijuana and that a violent struggle started as they tried to retrieve the evidence and take him into custody.
A judge later dropped Howell's criminal charges after a request from prosecutors, who started an investigation after seeing a video of the Westbury traffic stop that Howell's family retrieved from a store surveillance camera.
Publicly, Howell denied fighting police or having drugs, but later told prosecutors he had marijuana during the car stop. Howell said he'd been worried about having it because he was on probation at the time.