Earlier this year, Rockville Centre Police Officer Anthony Federico stood trial for a May 2016 incident in which he was accused of beating a suspect, striking him over the head with a Taser and falsifying police records. He was ultimately found not guilty in a bench trial.
His legal battles were not over, however. Last month, a Nassau County Supreme Court judge allowed a notice of claim, filed by a man who says Federico assaulted him during a “false arrest” in August 2016, to move forward.
In this latest court case, Luis A. Nunez, identified only as a Nassau County resident, filed a late notice of claim last September to sue the Village of Rockville Centre and the Police Department, alleging that he was attacked by Federico. Nunez contends that the officer used excessive force and denied him his constitutional rights.
According to the petition, Nunez was riding his motorcycle on Sunrise Highway late on the night of Aug. 4, 2016, when he stopped at a red light on Grand Avenue in Baldwin. Federico pulled up in front of Nunez, it states, and got out of his police vehicle with his gun drawn. He allegedly pushed Nunez and his motorcycle to the ground before forcing him to lie facedown on the street, close to passing cars.
“As he stood with his gun pointed at me he said, ‘I’m going to f--cking shoot you,’” the petition states. “The officer’s actions placed me in fear and were intimidating. I continually asked what was going on and why was I being treated this way and Police Officer Federico responded by telling me to ‘Shut the f-ck up,’ and that he was going to ‘Ruin my f-cking life.’”
The petition states that Federico claimed that Nunez drove his motorcycle into him to escape arrest, which is why he pushed Nunez and his motorcycle to the ground.
“We have no concerns at all over this fraudulent claim,” William Petrillo, who represents Federico, said last week through a spokeswoman. “Just as Officer Federico was exonerated in criminal court, the same will happen in civil court.”
William Croutier Jr., who is representing the village and the Police Department, submitted opposition to Nunez’s petition in November. Since Nunez was released from custody on or about Aug. 11, 2016, he said, a one-year statute of limitations for actions based on false arrest and unlawful imprisonment has now run out.
But court documents, signed by Nassau County Supreme Court Judge R. Bruce Cozzens Jr. and filed on April 11, state that Nunez “has demonstrated a reasonable excuse,” and that the village had been properly notified of the incident.
“We think it was a positive and correct decision,” said Frederick Brewington, who is representing Nunez. “That now clears our path to move forward, which we intend to do.”
Nunez was charged with second-degree assault and a number of traffic violations, including aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, speeding and changing lanes unsafely. He pleaded not guilty, was held on $25,000 bond and spent about seven days in jail, according to court documents. The district attorney dismissed all charges against Nunez on Aug. 14, 2017, about a year after they were filed.
“Officer [Federico] told me he would ruin my life and I was afraid if I did anything he would come for me,” the petition states. “. . . His acts were aimed at intimidating me and I was intimidated to the point of being afraid that basically paralyzed [me].”
Petrillo, Federico’s attorney, had told the Herald in January that Nunez was simply “jumping on the bandwagon,” and that the lawsuit had no merit and would be dismissed.
“I’m not going to comment on someone else’s analysis about what they don’t know about,” Brewington said when asked about Petrillo’s comments. “. . . He’s clear on what happened to him.”
Federico, who had been working at a desk for the Police Department since being indicted last year, was returned to full duty shortly after he was acquitted.