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Elmont library patrons reinstated after fight

The theater at Elmont Memorial Library, located at

The theater at Elmont Memorial Library, located at 700 Hempstead Tpke., will be the venue for a film festival Wednesday. (May 24, 2012) Credit: Amy Onorato

The privileges of two Elmont Memorial Library patrons, suspended after an internal probe faulted them in a physical altercation there in March, have been reinstated, officials said.

Joseph Smith, 60, of Elmont, was arrested by Nassau police March 29 on a "violation of harassment" in the alleged assault of Carl Achille, 29, also of Elmont, on March 11 at the library. The incident followed an Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development meeting. Smith, husband of coalition chair Sandra Smith, will appear in court again July 22.

After the library probe, Smith and Achille were found to have violated the library's policy regarding "disruptive behavior" and had their privileges suspended for 30 days, officials said.

Achille, whose privileges were suspended April 18, appealed to the board, which unanimously found at a May 9 hearing that he was not at fault for the incident and reinstated his privileges immediately. Smith was suspended March 15 and regained use privileges April 16.

"This was not a fight of two willing individuals, but was a savage and ignorant attack on me, by a person who has attacked others before," said Achille, who called the probe "completely flawed."

Achille, an Iraq War veteran and law enforcement officer, filed a police report after he said Smith choked him and threw him on 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.

But Smith, a Vietnam War veteran and 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 using a bigoted slur or grabbing Achille by his throat.

Sandra Smith, who ignored calls to step down as coalition chief, declined to comment.

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