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Nassau trial starts for Salvadoran national alleging police brutality

A photo of Willian Guillen provided by his

A photo of Willian Guillen provided by his attorney Karen Bobley, which shows her client's injuries after an arrest by Nassau police in March 2014. Credit: Karen Bobley

Nassau police officers had to hit Willian Guillen to force him to unclamp his teeth from a sergeant's thigh as he resisted being handcuffed, a prosecutor said Friday as the trial started for the Salvadoran national who's alleging police brutality.

Guillen, 33, of Hicksville, faces misdemeanor charges of assault and resisting arrest, and a harassment violation following his March arrest in Westbury.

Lawyers for Guillen -- a cook with no criminal record who they say illegally crossed into the country in 2002 -- claim police beat him even after he was in their custody following a wrongful arrest. Guillen was hospitalized for injuries that included broken ribs.

But Nassau Assistant District Attorney Alicia Lovett said Friday that undercover officers investigating drug and prostitution complaints in the area of a Hispanic restaurant approached Guillen after he made an apparent drug deal with another man.

Lovett told District Court Judge Sharon Gianelli in her opening statement that Guillen and his friend fled from two plainclothes officers wearing badges.

She said an officer chasing Guillen repeatedly yelled "Police! Stop!" and saw Guillen drop items, including what police, according to criminal complaints, believed was a bag of cocaine. The prosecutor said the foot pursuit ended with two other officers and a sergeant helping to handcuff Guillen on the ground.

Lovett said Guillen bit Sgt. Richard Soto as he was kneeling on one leg and Guillen "would not unclench his teeth from Sgt. Soto until he was struck by officers."

She said Soto screamed, "He's biting me! He's biting me!" and had intense pain that lasted days and still has a scar.

Police have said they never recovered the bag of suspected cocaine due to traffic at the Old Country Road scene.

Defense attorney Amy Marion told the judge what happened to her client was "a travesty of justice," saying, "There was absolutely no evidence that Mr. Guillen did anything wrong that night." She said Guillen never bit or assaulted the sergeant, but may have made contact with the officers' bodies.

"Sgt. Soto claims to have been bitten so that somehow there is a justification for this brutalization," Marion said.

The Garden City attorney said Guillen had just finished his shift at another business and had gone into the restaurant with a co-worker to order food before leaving a short time later. The defense maintains that Guillen doesn't speak much English and mistook the police for robbers.

Guillen's other attorney, Karen Bobley, previously asked federal officials to investigate the case and alleged that police should face criminal charges.

An internal police probe is underway, and Gianelli has ruled that statements from that can be used at Guillen's trial. He had faced felony charges after his arrest, but they were reduced.

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