Village of Rockville Centre police officer Anthony Federico left the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola on March 8 silently as a crush of press surrounded him. His attorney, William Petrillo, ushered him outside. “No questions, please,” Petrillo insisted.
Federico stared blankly as he walked to his car and drove away, leaving Petrillo to respond to reporters’ questions. Minutes earlier, the officer, 36, had pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting a village resident and falsifying police records to cover it up.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas alleges that Federico struck a man with a Taser during an investigation last May — causing a severe laceration — and then lied about it afterward. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
“Accusations of police misconduct are treated very seriously by this office,” Singas said. “It’s our obligation as prosecutors to follow the evidence.”
According to the district attorney, on May 8, at around 2:45 a.m. two groups of young adults were involved in a fight outside a bar on South Park Avenue, near Merrick Road, in Rockville Centre. One 25-year-old man, identified in police records as village resident Kevin Kavanagh, wound up on the ground. It’s unclear how. His brother, Brendan, 20, was helping him up when Federico approached to hear their account of the fight.
Singas did not say how it started, but there was a confrontation between the brothers and Federico. The officer reportedly had no backup, and according to Petrillo, he was surrounded by a crowd of people.
According to Singas, Federico discharged his Taser several times during the altercation. At one point, he allegedly hit Kevin on the head with it, causing a six-centimeter, front-scalp laceration, requiring sutures and staples to close.
According to police reports, Kevin was charged with attempted assault on Federico and resisting arrest. Brendan was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing law enforcement and possession of fake identification. According to Petrillo, their cases have not been resolved.
Federico was charged with second-degree assault, third-degree assault, two counts of second-degree filing a false instrument and two counts of second-degree filing a false business instrument.
Hundreds of police officers from across Long Island and beyond rallied in front of the Nassau County Courthouse last Wednesday in support of Frederico when he was arraigned.
Petrillo argued that physical contact with the two brothers and harsh language shouted by bystanders put Federico in fear for his life. The attorney also said the indictment against his client was causing “an anti-police sentiment.”
“This isn't just an indictment against a police officer,” Petrillo said at a news conference outside the court. “This is an indictment against police. This is a sad day for the citizens of this county and the citizens of Rockville Centre.”
According to the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, Federico acted prudently. “Surrounded by a crowd and while being struck by two individuals, Officer Federico found himself in an extremely dangerous situation and had to use reasonable force to properly defend himself and to effect a lawful arrest,” a Nassau PBA release read.
Among the officials attending the rally were Rockville Centre Village PBA President Jim Carty and Nassau PBA President James McDermott. Protesters brandished signs urging police unity and referencing “the Ferguson effect,” alluding to what many police considered undue scrutiny after the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Talk of the case emerged on social media on the week of March 6. In a letter posted on the Rockville Centre Police Benevolent Association’s Facebook page, Carty said the officer was responding to a bar fight when he was “forced to defend” himself against two individuals who had attacked him. In the same post, Carty also said there was video evidence of the incident, which he said appeared to exonerate the officer.
“This is the first step in the ciminal justice system,” said Rockville Centre Police Commissioner Charles Gennario while responding to an inquiry on the matter. “I’m confident that once all the facts are out he’ll be found not guilty in court.”
Federico joined the Rockville Centre Police Department in 2013, after retiring from the New York City Police Department, where he had served since 2005.
Deputy Bureau Chief Robert Cavallo of the Public Corruption Bureau is prosecuting this case.