Thomas Moroughan in court in Central Islip in March 2011.

Thomas Moroughan in court in Central Islip in March 2011. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Cabbie Thomas Moroughan’s 2011 shooting by a drunken, off-duty Nassau County police officer was an arrogant act. The reflexive cover-up of criminal behavior, and hiding of that cover-up by the Suffolk County Police Department’s top brass, were reprehensible.

Nassau and Suffolk police departments lost their way in the Moroughan case and taxpayers will pay dearly. The only conclusion from an exhaustive investigatory report by Newsday's David M. Schwartz is that lax accountability and corruption bedevil Long Island's principal law enforcement agencies.

In February 2011, Nassau officers and partners Anthony DiLeonardo and Gregory Bienz were headed home around 1 a.m. after dining at a Farmingdale restaurant and hitting three Huntington bars. The cops got into a driving dispute with Moroughan, and DiLeonardo confronted Moroughan as the cabbie maneuvered his Prius toward escape. DiLeonardo shot at Moroughan five times, hitting him twice. DiLeonardo then shattered the driver’s side window, and Moroughan’s nose, with the gun butt, and dropped the weapon in the Prius as Moroughan sped off.

Moroughan drove to Huntington Hospital, where Suffolk police pressed him while on narcotic painkillers to sign an incriminating statement. He was denied a lawyer and arrested hours later on a trumped-up charge.

The incident was handled as if DiLeonardo could not be at fault. Neither Beinz nor DiLeonardo, reeking of booze, were breathalyzed. Bienz was not interviewed that night. Cops and union leaders swarmed the scene, then the hospital, where all three men were taken. An emergency room doctor who treated DiLeonardo remarked: "Great, you can get drunk, shoot someone, and walk out the door the same day."

Less than 12 hours after the shooting, the Nassau Deadly Force Response Team ruled DiLeonardo acted within guidelines, making no mention of alcohol. Within 12 days, both men were back on duty.

DiLeonardo and Bienz’s fabrications about Moroughan being the aggressor fell apart thanks to the physical evidence and reports from the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory and Nassau County Internal Affairs bureau. Michael Caldarelli, who then headed Suffolk’s Internal Affairs bureau, corroborates written evidence that superiors including then-Commissioner Edward Webber altered his report to protect the officers after Caldarelli refused to do so. He says he was reassigned to "a broom closet counting paper clips" and retired in 2017, at 54.

Nassau’s Internal Affairs report concluded that DiLeonardo, fired three years later but never prosecuted, committed 11 crimes, while Bienz, docked 20 days pay but since promoted twice, committed two. The Nassau DA’s office never took action. The Suffolk DA’s office refused to convene a grand jury for two years, then put together a quick and ineffectual version after Newsday exposed the initial cover-up.

Moroughan seeks $30 million in damages. The proved dishonesty of Suffolk investigators imperils other prosecutions. And no one has ever paid a penalty for this reflexive, high-reaching, multidepartmental cover-up.

This is a tale of diseased orchards, not a few bad apples.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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