More than 18 months after a Rockville Centre couple and their neighbor were assaulted by a group of teenagers on Roxen Road, the trial of the five alleged assailants has begun.
Matthew DiPerna and William Moore were arrested three days after the June 18, 2012, incident, and Kevin Coyle was taken into custody a month later, after a joint investigation by village and Nassau County police. Officers arrested the final two defendants, William Nelson and Nolan Kelly, on Dec. 27 of that year.
Opening statements in the trial began on Tuesday, before Nassau County Judge Christopher Quinn. All five defendants opted to be tried by the judge instead of a jury, a proceeding known as a bench trial.
“This case is more than just what happened ultimately on Roxen Road,” said Brian Lee, deputy chief of the County Court Bureau, the prosecuting attorney.
One of the first pieces of evidence shown at the trial was a cellphone video allegedly showing 12 boys on Nottingham Road that night, drinking and being rowdy. But the video was grainy, and it was hard to make out who was actually shown on camera.
“One of the videos is so poor, it’s like a bunch of Gumbys running around,” said John R. Lewis Jr., DiPerna’s attorney.
According to the defense, the main focus of the trial is whether the boys assaulted the man on Roxen Road or were acting in self-defense. They allege that the man initiated a physical confrontation, grabbing one of the boys to demand that they apologize to his wife.
“The reaction of the boys was to defend their friend,” Lewis said.
According to police reports, the teenagers shouted obscenities at a resident as she walked her dog down Nottingham Road. The woman grew fearful, police said, and ran home to tell her husband about the incident. The two then drove around the neighborhood looking for the teens in order to demand an apology from them, before finding the group on Roxen Road.
When the man confronted the group, they attacked and injured him, police said, adding that a second man, who lives nearby, was also assaulted after attempting to help his neighbor, and the woman was thrown to the ground during the altercation.
Neither the neighbor nor the woman required medical attention, but the woman’s husband was taken by police to Mercy Medical Center, where he was treated for a broken rib, multiple contusions, a cut on his face and an injury to his jaw.
Some of the charges against the defendants were dismissed or reduced last August. The top charge of second-degree gang assault was dropped. Charges of first-degree assault were reduced to second degree, but the charges of third-degree assault remained.