By ALEX GINSBERG
November 1, 2005
An off-handed crack by a drunken partygoer comparing a Sikh's sacred turban to bed linen touched off a bloody melee on a Queens street two summers ago that put the immigrant in the hospital, eyewitnesses testified yesterday.
"Why did you steal the sheets from my house?" quipped Ryan Meehan, one of five men accused in the attack, to a passing group of turban-clad Sikhs, party guest Alison Pfluger told the judge.
The testimony capped the first day of trial for the men - Meehan, 25, Salvatore Maceli, 27, Nicholas Maceli, 23, Victor Cosentino, 60, and Terence Lyons, 54 - each of whom faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of second-degree assault as a hate crime.
The Macelis live in Valley Stream, L.I., with Cosentino, their stepfather. Lyons, a resident of Elmont, L.I., is Salvatore Maceli's uncle and Meehan, of Woodhaven, Queens, is a family friend.
Prosecutors say the five beat and kicked Rajinder Singh Khalsa July 11, 2004, in front of the Villa Russo catering hall in Howard Beach, where they were attending a christening for Salvatore Maceli's daughter.
Pfluger testified that she had stepped outside the party onto the sidewalk on Lefferts Boulevard for a cigarette with Meehan, Nicholas Maceli and another guest when altercation started.
In separate testimony, the other guest, Jennifer Murray, recalled the incident slightly differently, telling Supreme Court Justice Seymour Rotker that one of the two men said, "Look, somebody stole my curtains."
A third witness, Villa Russo maitre d' Kim Delucia, 28, said she was collecting the final payment for the party from Salvatore Maceli when the young father got word his friends were involved in a fight.
She followed him out to the street where she said she saw five men beating a Sikh man, who was collapsed on the ground.
"He was bleeding," Delucia said. "His eye looked a little messed up. He looked out of it."
But the only one of the five defendants she identified was Salvatore Maceli, who she said continued kicking the victim even as she and her boss yanked him away.
Maceli's lawyer declined to respond to the testimony directly, but in cross-examination, pointed out that Delucia has reason to pin the blame on her guests because her boss, George Russo, is facing a lawsuit.