The Suffolk County district attorney's office must turn over its investigative notes on the 2011 shooting of an unarmed cabdriver by an off-duty Nassau police officer in Huntington Station as part of a $30 million lawsuit, a federal judge has ruled.
Thomas Moroughan, the unarmed cabbie who was shot by then-Nassau Police Officer Anthony DiLeonardo after a night of drinking with another off-duty officer, Edward Bienz, has sued Nassau and Suffolk counties, their police departments and 28 individual officers and supervisors for fabricating evidence, false arrest, excessive force, conspiracy and other allegations.
In a May 20 order, Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson, of the eastern district of U.S. District Court in Central Islip, rejected an argument by the office of Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota that the notes are covered by "law enforcement privilege." The judge gave the office 14 days to turn over the notes to Moroughan's attorney.
"These are notes taken by a trained police investigator regarding interviews with witnesses to the events alleged in the complaint," Tomlinson wrote in her order, which also said the documents must remain confidential. "It is therefore hard to overestimate the importance of the notes to the plaintiff since they go directly to the claims asserted in the complaint."
Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Anne E. Oh had argued against a subpoena from Moroughan's attorney to provide the documents, saying, "the privacy of the third party witnesses and the integrity of the investigation performed by the District Attorney's Office would be jeopardized by disclosure of the investigator's notes," according to the judge's memorandum.
A spokesman for Spota did not respond to a request for comment on the judge's ruling. Spokesmen for Suffolk County and its police department also did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Moroughan, with his pregnant girlfriend, was retreating in his vehicle from DiLeonardo after a road-rage incident, when DiLeonardo fired his service weapon five times, authorities said. Moroughan was shot in the chest and the arm and also had a broken nose.
Moroughan was charged with assault and reckless endangerment in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but charges were dropped about three months later. DiLeonardo was fired from the department last year. Bienz was disciplined for his role and remains a Third Precinct officer.
Moroughan's attorney, Anthony Grandinette, said in an email that the documents sought "contain the factual basis establishing Mr. Moroughan's innocence, which warranted the dismissal of all charges against him a mere 89 days post arrest."
Grandinette said, "The district attorney's investigative file will help prove the allegations in Mr. Moroughan's complaint -- that Nassau and Suffolk County police conspired to conceal incriminating evidence against the defendant officers, while simultaneously fabricating false evidence against Moroughan in an ill-conceived attempt to shield their brethren officers from administrative and criminal punishment."
A special grand jury convened by Spota to investigate the incident expired last year with no criminal charges brought, despite the Nassau police findings that DiLeonardo committed four felonies and a misdemeanor.
Earlier this year, Suffolk district attorney spokesman Robert Clifford blamed the special grand jury's inactivity on the shooting victim's unwillingness to testify, the district attorney's office's inability to obtain Nassau and Suffolk County police internal affairs reports, and a state law granting immunity against prosecution to grand jury witnesses.
Five legal experts who reviewed the facts of the case and the explanations from Spota's office as to why the special grand jury was not pursued disagreed with the idea that Spota could not pursue the case, Newsday has reported.