A Syosset man who claimed that Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney punched him in the face at a traffic stop last year was found not guilty last week of running a stop sign — and has filed a $15 million lawsuit against Tangney and the city for emotional and physical damages, according to officials and court documents.
Kevin Holian, a 64-year-old retired IRS employee, and his wife, Debra, filed a lawsuit against the city, Tangney, and a Long Beach police officer, in September in Nassau County State Supreme Court.
Holian and Tangney, who is also Long Beach’s acting city manager, appeared in First District Court in Hempstead last month to testify a year after their interaction on Beech Street, when Holian was issued a ticket for running a stop sign in December. Holian was found not guilty on Jan. 9 by Judge Valerie Alexander.
Tangney, who was not charged, testified that Holian drove through the stop sign at the corner of Beech and Edwards Boulevard on Dec. 19, while Holian claimed that he came to a complete stop, and was subsequently punched by Tangney when he approached Holian’s car.
Holian was issued a ticket for disobeying a stop sign.
The Nassau County district attorney’s office investigated the case for three months before closing it, concluding that there was no evidence to support a criminal prosecution against Tangney.
Holian has sued for damages, with claims including false arrest and imprisonment, assault, battery and violation of civil rights. According to court documents, he claims that he experienced “severe humiliation and gross indignities resulting from the assault and battery and false imprisonment complained of, and was caused and will continue to undergo and endure severe mental anguish, humiliation, economic hardship and loss of enjoyment of life as a consequence.”
Additionally, Debra claimed that she “has suffered the loss of society and companionship of her husband,” and “continues to suffer in mind and body, and has been denied the care, consideration, companionship, aid, sexual relations, solace and society of her husband.”
Holian was driving on Beech Street when a man in a silver Lexus SUV — later identified as Tangney — began honking his horn and yelling profanities, Holian’s attorney, Charo Ezdrin, told the court. Holian pulled over at the corner of Beech and Edwards out of fear of being rear-ended, Ezdrin added. He got out of his car, approached Tangney’s vehicle and, Ezdrin said, Tangney threatened to shoot him and told him to get back in his car. Tangney exited his vehicle, came up to Holian’s driver’s-side window, asked him for his license and registration and punched him in the face, Ezdrin said, adding that he “never went through a stop sign — he was a victim of road rage.”
Tangney, a 40-year member of the Police Department, strongly denied the allegations. The incident occurred just hours before the City Council appointed Tangney as acting city manager.
Tangney testified that he summoned a uniformed Long Beach police officer to issue a traffic ticket to Holian for disobeying a stop sign and drove away. Holian said he immediately drove to the Nassau County Police Department precinct in Syosset, filed a complaint and was transported to Syosset Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries.
Ezdrin presented copies to Judge Valerie Alexander of what she said was the traffic ticket covered in drops of Holian’s blood. Alexander asked to see the original ticket, but a representative from the Nassau County district attorney’s office said she did not have the original ticket with her in the courtroom.
The district attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.
“It’s interesting to me how the Nassau County district attorney, who originally investigated this case, was so quick to not investigate and close it to find no wrongdoing, but the courts find that [Holian] is not guilty of going through a stop sign,” Ezdrin told the Herald. “It leaves somebody to wonder. They didn’t produce key evidence, which was the ticket with the blood stains, but the judge found him not guilty.”
The city’s corporation counsel, Rob Agostisi, who is representing Tangney, declined to comment on pending litigation.
Ezdrin also questioned Tangney’s authority to issue traffic violation tickets as commissioner of police.
Tangney, who has been the city’s police commissioner for seven years, said in court that it was normal for him to carry out traffic stops, and that he does so 40 to 50 times a year.
According to the City Charter, the police commissioner “shall have supervision of all traffic, ordinances and regulations affecting streets, avenues, boulevards and other public places.”
“We can confirm that he does” have the ability to issue tickets, Agostisi said. “We’ve done the research separately.”