Nassau County policeman Vincent LoGiudice has pleaded not guilty earlier this week to felony assault charges in the beating of Westbury man Kyle Howell during a traffic stop.
LoGiudice issued the plea on Tuesday, June 3 following the order in a county court to unseal the grand jury indictment, where he was charged with two counts of assault in the second degree and one count assault in the third degree, News 12 Long Island reported.
Howell was stopped by LoGiudice and his partner Basil Gomez April 25 for having a cracked windshield. However, he was later arrested and charged with assault. According to court documents, officers alleged that they were trying to stop the 20-year-old from ingesting a bag of marijuana that resulted in his kicking and punching them, WABC-TV wrote.
Charges against Howell were soon dismissed after surveillance video showed that he was the one being kicked and punched.
“The video is a violent depiction of a brutal beating. It’s not as if there is one punch, or two punches. The officer can be seen pulling out his flashlight and beating him on the head. It’s just a horrible, horrible assault,” said attorney Amy Marion, PIX 11 reported.
Howell suffered a broken nose, bone fractures near both eyes, and nerve damage as a result of the beating that he says was unprovoked. His eyes, still bloody, will require surgery to fix them.
"My paycheck started to fly out the door," Howell recounted. "I went to go reach for it, and the next thing you know, I got a knee to the face. Then the next thing I remember, I was in the hospital ...You can see the damage that happened."
On Tuesday, several hundred officers gathered in a show of support for LoGiudice as he entered the courtroom. According to News 12 Long Island, a rally was held for the officer after he pled not guilty. It should be noted that his partner Basil Gomez was not charged in the incident.
“It just shows that all these people here are just supporting police brutality,” said Howell, who was at the courthouse with his family.
Head of the police union James Carver has defended his officers’ actions, saying that they were attempting to restrain a suspect who refused to comply with orders and that District Attorney Kathleen Rice should have spoken to LoGiudice and Basil before releasing Howell.
"This was done without ever speaking to my police officers to find out their side of the story," Carver said at a press conference. "It's apparent that they're on a mission just to prosecute these two police officers."
The case will be due back in court on July 2.
"To judge this case by the video, would be like judging a book by its cover," said William Petrillo, LoGiudice's defense attorney. "This could cause good police officers in the future to hesitate or to second guess, or to think twice before making a split second decision."
Following on the tails of this case, the Nassau County Police Department has launched a pilot program that requires officers to wear body cameras and install dashboard cameras on patrol units—all part of an effort to capture their dealings with the public.
Ravelle Worthington is a writer living in New York. Follow her on Twitter @ravmo.