The Nassau County Police Department has filed departmental charges against Officer Anthony DiLeonardo almost three years after he shot an unarmed cabdriver in Huntington Station after a night of drinking off-duty. Department officials could ultimately fire DiLeonardo after a hearing scheduled for Feb. 10, according to a source with knowledge of the department's plans.
It's the department's first attempt to discipline DiLeonardo for the shooting, the source said.
County comptroller payroll records show that neither DiLeonardo nor Officer Edward Bienz, DiLeonardo's barhopping companion on the night of the shooting, were ever suspended for their roles in the February 2011 incident. Both officers remain on the job. DiLeonardo was paid $110,316 in 2012, the year after the shooting, and Bienz made $145,877.
Bienz has already been punished, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because department discipline is supposed to remain secret. It is unknown how Bienz was disciplined.
DiLeonardo's attorney, Bruce Barket, disputed that DiLeonardo "hasn't been disciplined for any alleged violation to this date." He declined to elaborate.
Nassau police Internal Affairs investigators recommended in 2012 that the department administratively charge DiLeonardo with 11 counts of unlawful conduct -- seven of which they labeled felonies -- after he shot and beat Thomas Moroughan during a February 2011 road-range incident.
The investigation recommended two unlawful conduct charges against Bienz.
The details of the shooting were hidden from the public for two years by state Civil Rights Law 50-a, which makes all information used to evaluate police officers -- including investigations into officer misconduct -- confidential. Those details were revealed last June after a Newsday reporter found that Nassau's Internal Affairs report of the incident had been accidentally left unsealed in the court file of a $30-million federal civil rights lawsuit Moroughan filed.
The lawsuit -- which names Nassau and Suffolk counties, DiLeonardo, Bienz and numerous other officers as defendants -- is pending.
"Their conduct was absolutely outrageous, and the fact that it has taken this long to punish them is equally as outrageous," said Anthony Grandinette, Moroughan's civil attorney.
Nassau County and its police department declined to comment Thursday.
DiLeonardo and Bienz did not respond to messages left with the police department and the Nassau Police Benevolent Association.
"Everybody's entitled to their due process," said Nassau PBA president James Carver. He declined to comment further.
In March 2012, Nassau County's Indemnification Board found that DiLeonardo's actions on the night of the shooting weren't "within the scope" of his job. As a result, Nassau's attorneys are not representing DiLeonardo in the Moroughan lawsuit and the county won't cover any judgments against him in the case. The same board ruled Bienz's actions fell within the scope of his duties.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, who had jurisdiction over the shooting, did not file criminal charges against either DiLeonardo or Bienz in the months after the incident. However, Spota empaneled a grand jury to investigate the shooting in July 2013, 2 1/2 weeks after Newsday published details of Nassau's Internal Affairs investigation.
Where the case stands
That grand jury's term was set to expire Jan. 6, according to court documents Spota's office filed in December.
Spota did not respond to multiple inquiries about the status of the grand jury, which can be extended.
DiLeonardo's disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 10, the source said, although he is allowed to request a one-month delay. Barket declined to confirm that a hearing was scheduled, but said he did not expect the hearing to occur on Feb. 10.
The disciplinary action against DiLeonardo comes as the department is searching for a permanent leader and is under fire over a series of high-profile police misconduct scandals.
Thomas Dale resigned as commissioner on Dec. 12 after a Nassau district attorney's report criticized his role in a politically charged arrest.
Interim Commissioner Victor Politi, who stepped in for Dale, left the department Wednesday to run the Nassau Health Care Corp.
The decision to discipline DiLeonardo could fall to new interim Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, who was also interim commissioner when the department began its investigation of the Moroughan shooting in 2011.
It is unclear whether Dale or Politi initiated the disciplinary action against DiLeonardo.
For much of his tenure, Dale struggled with the police union -- first in the county legislature and then in the courts -- for increased powers to discipline officers. On Dec. 5, a judge ruled that the county's charter puts the commissioner in charge of discipline.
"Dale was a disciplinarian," County Executive Edward Mangano told Newsday after Dale's resignation. "The next commissioner will be a disciplinarian, too."
With Sandra Peddie