MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A police officer is accused of groping a woman in front of her children outside a Long Island restaurant earlier this year.
Hempstead Village Police Officer Louis Arcila, 49, of Roslyn Heights, surrendered Thursday morning to face charges in connection with the June 28 incident.
The married father of five was off-duty, but had his badge clipped to his belt when he approached the woman at the El Rancho Catrach restaurant in Hempstead, prosecutors said.
Arcila told the woman he was going to give her a ticket because her daughter was dressed only in a diaper, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
He then allegedly followed her to her car, where the woman’s two daughters — ages 3 and 10 — were sitting in the backseat, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.
“Opened the door, got in, sat down, and then grabbed her breast and grabbed her inner thigh,” Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.
The woman tried to fight off Arcila, and her older daughter threatened to put him “in the hospital” if he didn’t stop touching her mom, prosecutors said.
Arcila then allegedly left the woman his name and phone number, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported. She called 911.
Arcila is charged with official misconduct, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual abuse.
“He used his shield as entree to this woman and then put her in a vulnerable position in her own vehicle in front of her own children,” Singas said.
Arcila’s attorney, William Petrillo, claims the woman has since recanted her story, but Singas said that statement is not true, Hall reported.
“He is a police officer, so she is frightened, but she is consistent but resolute that this happened,” Singas said.
Hempstead PBA President Frank McNamee said he was disappointed to learn of the indictment, but found the timing of it to be troubling.
“The officer denies the allegations. We want to stress that this is only an accusation, and we are confident that the officer will be vindicated once all of the facts are presented in court,” McNamee said. “We also would like to note that the timing of this indictment is troubling, since it comes just a few days before the district attorney comes up for re-election.”
Petrillo called the case political and also questioned the timing.
“The district attorney sat on this complaint and waited four months until today…four days before an election,” Petrillo said.
Singas, a longtime prosecutor made acting district attorney after her predecessor was elected to Congress, is in a heated battle with Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray to keep her seat, Gusoff reported.
“It is most troubling to us that these actions are taken by this office at this time,” said Petrillo.
Singas, however, said the court date was delayed to accommodate the defense after a months-long investigation.
“The only person who exploited anyone in this case is that police officer when he exploited this woman,” Singas said.
Arcila pleaded not guilty, was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court Nov. 13.
He faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted on the top charge. He would also be stripped of his badge.
“The brave and honest men and women of our police forces do an outstanding job keeping our communities safe, but when a member of the force tarnishes the badge by sexually assaulting an innocent woman, we will prosecute them without fear or favor,” Singas said.
Hempstead Village police said Arcila has been re-assigned to modified duty with no interaction with the public while the case is underway.