Citing a Newsday investigation, a federal judge will allow an unarmed cabdriver shot in Huntington Station by an off-duty Nassau County police officer to amend his $30 million lawsuit to include allegations that Nassau had an "unlawful policy and custom of falsifying reports" regarding police officers' use of deadly force.
The order, issued last week, is a procedural victory for Thomas Moroughan, the unarmed cabbie who on Feb. 11, 2011, was shot by then-Nassau Police Officer Anthony DiLeonardo after a night of drinking with another off-duty officer, Edward Bienz.
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco said in a 10-page memo that he sided with Moroughan regarding the addition of the claim to the pending suit because of the timing of a Newsday story in November 2013 on the police department's Deadly Force Emergency Response Team, which investigates all police-involved shootings.
Nassau's lawyers argued the deadline had expired for Moroughan's claims to be added to the suit against Nassau and Suffolk counties. The cabbie's lawyers have said in court papers that the deadly force investigators "intentionally failed to investigate and report accurate findings in order to protect DiLeonardo and Bienz from punishment."
Bianco, who called the arguments from Nassau's attorneys "entirely unpersuasive," said Moroughan was "not aware of the allegations" until the Newsday article. The judge said "it was not unreasonable for [Moroughan] to investigate those allegations for nine months before seeking to amend the pleading."
In an email Wednesday, county attorney Carnell Foskey declined to comment, but in 2014 he told Newsday that Moroughan's claims were "frivolous" and "have no truth to them."
Moroughan's lawyer, Anthony Grandinette, said in an email Wednesday that the judge's decision is "significant" because it allows his client to prove that the team "engaged in an unconstitutional pattern and practice of fabricating its reports and withholding critical facts. . . . In short, Mr. Moroughan's case was not an isolated incident."
Moroughan, with his pregnant girlfriend, was retreating from DiLeonardo after a road-rage incident, when DiLeonardo fired his service weapon five times, authorities said. Moroughan was shot twice and also had a broken nose.
Nassau's Deadly Force Emergency Response Team ruled in the immediate aftermath of the incident that DiLeonardo's actions were justified. The officer, who later admitted to consuming eight to 10 alcoholic beverages before the encounter, said he shot Moroughan because the cabdriver revved his engine at him and he feared for his life.
But a later report from the department's Internal Affairs Bureau concluded the incident could not have unfolded the way DiLeonardo and Bienz described, and all charges against Moroughan were dropped.
A special grand jury convened by Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota to investigate the incident expired last year with no criminal charges brought, despite the department's findings that DiLeonardo committed four felonies and a misdemeanor.
DiLeonardo was fired last year. Bienz was disciplined for his role and remains an officer in the Third Precinct. Last year, Nassau police created a review board to oversee investigations of all police deadly force incidents.