Hundreds of police officers chanted, cheered and rallied loudly inside a Long Island courthouse on Tuesday for a fellow officer indicted on assault charges for punching and kicking a man during a traffic stop captured on video.
Nassau County Officer Vincent LoGiudice, 34, was released without bail after pleading not guilty at his arraignment in Nassau County Court. He is charged in a grand jury indictment with two counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault. LoGiudice surrendered earlier at police headquarters and was suspended without pay.
LoGiudice is accused of beating a suspect during an arrest following an April traffic stop in Westbury. The encounter was captured on video from a nearby business and obtained by attorneys for the suspect, Kyle Howell. They have filed notice they intend to sue the county police department over the alleged assault.
Police arrested Howell on assault, resisting arrest and drug charges after he allegedly refused to comply with officers' instructions to provide identification. Police said they were forced to physically restrain Howell because he tried to swallow a bag of marijuana.
Howell denied those allegations. The district attorney's office opted last month to drop all charges against the 20-year-old Westbury man.
The video, which obscures the view of Howell inside the vehicle, shows LoGuidice and another officer speaking with him briefly. At one point, LoGuidice is seen walking behind the car, pivoting and returning to the passenger-side door. Both officers are then seen punching and kicking someone inside the vehicle.
No charges were filed against LoGuidice's partner, identified in court records as Basil Gomez.
Defense attorney William Petrillo derided prosecutors for charging LoGuidice with two felonies and a misdemeanor.
"You cannot judge this case by that video because that video does not show what was going on inside that car," he said.
Outside the courtroom, Police Benevolent Association President James Carver led several hundred officers in a chant of "Vindicate Vinny." Outside the courthouse, he told fellow officers: "You've only seen a small snippet of what actually occurred that day."
On the other side of the courthouse, Howell and a much smaller group of supporters reacted to the overwhelming police presence at the arraignment.
"It's just very sad to know they're supporting this type of behavior," said Howell, who said he suffered eye injuries during the encounter with officers. "I am a victim of this crime. I think it's disgusting."
District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is running for Congress, issued a statement noting the indictment represents "serious allegations that will be prosecuted aggressively by my office."
LoGuidice is due back in court on July 2.