MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Nassau County police officer accused of beating a Westbury man during a traffic stop pleaded not guilty to assault charges on Tuesday.
EXTRA: Read The Indictment
A second officer also allegedly involved was not named in the indictment.
Hundreds of officers and supporters gathered outside the courthouse Tuesday morning in support of LoGiudice. The crowd clapped and cheered as he emerged from his arraignment.
Howell said the huge show of support for the officer was meant to intimidate him, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
“It just made it seem like they were all against me and they were trying to support police brutality, like they all thought it was OK,” Howell said. “If they all think it’s OK, what else are they going to do every day? If they go out every day thinking that it’s OK, someone else is going to get hurt just like I did.”
Howell had claimed he was beaten with fists, flashlights and feet during the traffic stop. The officers union claimed Howell kicked and punched officers after they tried to stop him from swallowing a bag of marijuana.
The entire incident was caught on nearby surveillance video.
Watch Surveillance Video:
Howell was initially charged with assaulting two police officers, witness tampering and several other charges, but those charges were dropped last month after a judge reviewed the video.
“I am very grateful that I have the video to prove my innocence,” Howell said last month.
“Without the video, we would have no voice,” his mother, Joan Howell, said. “If there was no video, we would not be here today.”
Even with the video, the police union and LoGiudice’s attorney warned against jumping to conclusions in the case.
“You’re only looking at one portion, you’re not seeing what’s going on inside that vehicle, you’re only seeing the actions outside the vehicle,” said James Carver, president of the Nassau County Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. “One of the most difficult things a police officer has to do in their career is arrest somebody that does not want to be arrested.”
“To judge this case by the video would be like judging a book by its cover, because that video does not show what was going on inside that car,” lawyer William Petrillo added. “Every action taken by this police officer and his partner in this case was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.”
Officer LoGiudice, a seven-year veteran of the force, faces a maximum of seven years in prison. He has been suspended from the force without pay. His partner has not been charged, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
LoGiudice was released without bail and is due back in court on July 2.
Howell had said he plans to sue, claiming he was targeted and harassed. He also suffered facial fractures and attorneys said he has had surgery to repair an injured eye.
“I am very satisfied because I feel like justice is on its way,” Howell said Tuesday after the court hearing.
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