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Shot cabbie's lawyer: Two cops at fault

Thomas Moroughan, 26, is led to his arraignment

Thomas Moroughan, 26, is led to his arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip on charges of reckless endangerment on Monday, Feb. 28, 2011. Moroughan was arrested after police said he struck two off-duty Nassau County police officers with his taxi in Huntington Station on Sunday, Feb. 27. Credit: James Carbone

The attorney for a taxi driver shot twice by one of two off-duty Nassau cops in Suffolk said the officers, not his client, were at fault, and called on Suffolk investigators to learn whether the officers had been drinking.

"The only crime committed in this case was committed by the off-duty officers," said attorney William Petrillo.

Thomas Moroughan, 26, of Huntington Station, was arrested after the Sunday altercation and arraigned Monday in a Suffolk court.

Moroughan appeared disheveled, tired but alert as he pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment and assault of a police officer. He was held on cash bail of $2,500 and is scheduled back in court Friday.

According to Suffolk police, the two Nassau officers were lost when they pulled over in separate cars at 1:15 a.m. on Oakwood Road near Tippin Drive. Moroughan pulled up behind them, police said. The three men argued. Moroughan then drove his taxi toward one of the officers, who was outside his vehicle, Suffolk police said.

One officer fired into the taxi, striking Moroughan in the chest and arm, before identifying himself as a police officer. The pair were in civilian clothes and driving private vehicles.

Petrillo said he believed both officers had been drinking before the altercation but would not elaborate on the basis of that assertion. "As I said in court, we have a good-faith basis to believe alcohol was involved and the DA should find it," he said.

Neither officer was given an alcohol test, Suffolk police said, nor does department policy require such tests following shootings by police officers. The possible involvement of drugs or alcohol "is part of this investigation on the part of anyone involved," the spokeswoman said.

Moroughan still had two bullets lodged in his body Monday and doctors were deciding if or when they would be removed, Petrillo said.

Nassau police declined to answer questions Monday about the officers or department policy related to alcohol or shootings.

In a signed deposition, Nassau officer Anthony DiLeonardo said he was pulled over when Moroughan "pulled up driving a taxi and started yelling at me." As Moroughan started to exit his vehicle, DiLeonardo said he got out of his car, and the argument continued. Moroughan "backed up his vehicle and then accelerated toward me. I thought he was going to hit me with his car and I was in fear of my life," he said.

DiLeonardo says he opened fire and then identified himself as a police officer while trying to arrest Moroughan. The car backed up, causing an open car door "to hit me and knock me to the ground."

Moroughan's girlfriend was in the front seat during the incident and was prepared to testify, Petrillo said. She attended the hearing but declined to speak to reporters.

Suffolk police said Sunday that Moroughan struck both officers with his car. Two criminal complaints against Moroughan name DiLeonardo alone as a victim. DiLeonardo's deposition does not mention a second officer or the nature of the argument.

Petrillo described the officers' driving as "reckless and irate," which led to Moroughan stopping and arguing with them. Petrillo said Moroughan had no idea the pair were police officers until after he had been shot.In court, Petrillo said he was "very concerned" that Suffolk police did not give the officers alcohol tests and called on the district attorney's office to provide him with witness interviews, any surveillance footage, and medical records for the officers.

"At this point it's a police investigation, and down the road we will see what it brings," said Robert Clifford, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota.

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