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Elmont community leader's husband arrested in alleged attack

The husband of an Elmont civic group leader has been arrested in an alleged attack on another Elmont resident after a disagreement at a meeting of the civic group last month.

Joseph Smith, 59, of Elmont, was arrested last week in connection with the alleged assault of Carl Achille, 29, after a March 11 meeting of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development at the Elmont Memorial Library. Smith's wife, Sandra, is the coalition's chairwoman.

Achille, an Iraq War veteran and law enforcement officer, filed a police report after he said Joseph Smith choked him and threw him onto a table as Smith shouted anti-gay and bigoted slurs. Achille, who owns a local barbershop, said the incident happened after the two disagreed about the need for housing for young professionals.

"Our entire community is not going to put up with being attacked at a community meeting about development," he said.

But Smith, 59, a Vietnam War veteran and a hospital switchboard operator, had said Achille grabbed his wrist to confront him after Smith told a female civic leader at the meeting that Achille had made a derogatory comment about her. Smith said he and Achille exchanged insults and Smith grabbed Achille by the collar. Smith denied he used a bigoted slur or grabbed Achille by his throat.

Smith surrendered and was arrested March 29 on a "violation of harassment." He was issued an appearance ticket for April 10, Nassau County Police Department spokeswoman Jean DeLuca said.

Nassau County district attorney's office spokesman Chris Munzing declined to comment, saying "it's an ongoing case."

After the altercation, Achille led a rally last month calling for Sandra Smith, 58, to step down from leading the group, but she vowed to stay in the post she's held for seven years. She has said the resignation calls were motivated by partisan politics since she is a constituent caseworker for state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

Sandra Smith declined to comment Wednesday and referred questions to the couple's Garden City-based attorney Dennis O'Brien. "My client maintains his innocence and we will deal with these charges in court," O'Brien said.

The library board voted on March 21 to suspend the coalition from using the library's facilities until the library completes an investigation into the alleged incident, library officials said.

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