The acting police chief and three part-time officers from a popular Long Island vacation spot were indicted Tuesday on charges they beat a tourist after he was accused of littering.
Samuel Gilberd, 34, suffered severe internal injuries, including a ruptured bladder, that required 10 days in a hospital.
Authorities promised that the indictments were the first phase of an investigation into police conduct in Ocean Beach, a village known for enforcing laws such as a onetime ban on eating cookies on public walkways.
"It was a police department gone wild. There was no control at all," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said. The officers "acted as thugs in police uniforms."
Acting Police Chief George Hesse, 38, is charged with assault and unlawful imprisonment in the August 2005 confrontation with Gilberd, who still visits a urologist and is receiving psychiatric care.
A bouncer at a bar across the street from the Police Department accused Gilberd of littering and took him over to be cited. The officers dragged him into a room and kicked him in the stomach, said D. Carl Lustig III, the lawyer representing Gilberd in a federal lawsuit seeking millions of dollars from the village and the department.
Hesse's lawyer, William Keahon, contended Gilberd was intoxicated and suggested he hurt himself in a fall. "This is about a fellow that was drunk, on drugs, injured himself and now wants to sue," Keahon said.
Lustig did not dispute that his client had been drinking, but said medical reports showed his client had no drugs in his system.
The part-time officers were charged with unlawful imprisonment, reckless endangerment and hindering prosecution. They were identified as Paul Carollo, 46; Arnold Hardman, 51; and William Emburey, 42. All four men pleaded not guilty Tuesday. They remain free on bail. Emburey's lawyer, John Ray, said the confrontation occurred on his client's first night on the job. He said Emburey had nothing to do with the allegations and was charged only because it happened on his shift.
A week after the altercation, Gilberd was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but the district attorney later dismissed those allegations.
The population of Ocean Beach, on Fire Island just east of New York City, swells from 138 year-round residents to more than 6,000 renters and day-trippers in the summer, when rentals can start at $10,000 a month. The village is nicknamed the "Land of No" because of odd ordinances such as the cookie ban. It was also the setting for last summer's ABC reality show "One Ocean View" about the island's singles scene.
The police department has two full-time members and 24 part-time officers.
Last week, five former police officers claimed they were wrongfully fired by Hesse, whom they accused of misconduct and mismanagement. In an interview with Newsday, Hesse would not say why he fired the five officers. Doug Wigdor, a former prosecutor representing the five officers in a wrongful termination lawsuit, claimed Hesse was "running the police department like a fraternity house."
Village and police officials have declined to comment on that federal lawsuit, in which the officers seek millions of dollars in damages and the restoration of their jobs.
Thursday, March 29, 2007