Assault defendants return to court

Date not set for Battaglia, Buckley and Gilbert trial


More than six months after four Oceanside residents allegedly assaulted two men in Babylon, the defendants returned to a Suffolk County court for a felony hearing on Jan. 31.

Oceanside residents Nicholas Battaglia, Justin and Shane Buckley and Gregory Gilbert appeared at the Suffolk First District Court in West Islip before County Court Judge Jennifer Henry. Three of the defendants —Battaglia, Shane Buckley and Gilbert — are charged with two counts of third-degree assault as a hate crime and one count of second-degree gang assault, while the fourth defendant, Justin Buckley, is charged with two counts of third-degree assault as a hate crime.

The defendants are due back at the Suffolk First District Court on March 21 for another administrative hearing.

The alleged incident occurred on July 21 of last year, only days after the Buckley brothers memorialized their older brother, Gregory, a Marine who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. According to Suffolk County prosecutors, the Buckleys, Battaglia and Gilbert were walking on Deer Park Avenue in Babylon around 3:30 a.m., when they called across the street to ask two men how to get to the nearest Long Island Rail Road station. After words were exchanged, the defendants allegedly began beating the two men.

“The four assailants started yelling anti-gay slurs, crossed the street and attacked them,” said Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Opisso.

The victims were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, where one was admitted with a broken nose. Ronkonkoma attorney Anthony Ciaccio, who represents the unidentified victim with the broken nose, said that despite the hate crime charge, his client is not gay, adding that his client was “viciously attacked for no reason.”

Family members said they couldn’t believe the hate crime charge. Gregory Buckley, Sr., Shane’s and Justin’s father, described them as “great kids,” denied that they are homophobic and said that police are “blowing [the incident] out of proportion.”

“No way — not in a million years,” Buckley said of the allegations that his sons committed a hate crime.

A start date for the trial has yet to be announced.