By Herbert Lowe
November 3, 2005
To Victor Cosentino's attorney, "words alone are not an assault," and certainly not a hate crime -- even if his client threatened murder, as a prosecution witness testified against him Wednesday in Queens.
Cosentino, 60, of Valley Stream, also contends that the charges alleging that he helped assault a Sikh leader after an argument over turbans are borne out of racial prejudice against him.
Responding to a civil lawsuit filed by Rajinder Singh Bammi, 55, of South Ozone Park, against him and four other defendants, Cosentino has filed his own suit against Bammi.
"He feels he was falsely arrested on false charges and this has destroyed his life," said Todd Greenberg, attorney for Cosentino, a territory manager for an office-supply company.
Prosecutors contend in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens that the defendants harassed Bammi and his cousin, Gurcharan Singh, 51, then beat Bammi into unconsciousness outside the Villa Russo catering hall in Richmond Hill on July 11, 2004.
But Greenberg says while his client did speak harshly to Singh, Cosentino did not punch or kick Bammi. Instead, Cosentino tried to squash the incident, Greenberg said.
"The charges against Mr. Cosentino were motivated solely by Mr. Bammi's prejudice against Italians ... was nothing more than pointing out every single Italian male person that was present," Greenberg said.
Bammi is expected to testify against Cosentino; his stepsons, Salvatore Maceli, 27, and Nicholas Maceli, 23, also of Valley Stream; Terence Lyons, 54, of Elmont, and Ryan Meehan, 25, of Woodhaven, in a non-jury trial before Justice Seymour Rotker.
They are charged with second-degree assault as a hate crime, second-degree assault and second-degree harassment. If convicted, each faces up to 15 years in prison.
During the trial, Greenberg contended that Cosentino was about to leave a christening party when he noticed Singh writing down his license plate number.
When Cosentino asked why, Singh said no one was to leave until the police arrived.
"If the cops come to my house, I'll come back and kill you," Singh repeatedly quoted Cosentino as saying during his testimony.
During his cross-examination, however, Greenberg gave Singh a transcript of his testimony to a grand a month after the incident. Then, according to the transcript, Singh said Cosentino only threatened to come back and kick him in the rear end.
"Do you know what the word 'embellishment' means?" Greenberg asked derisively. Singh insisted he was not doing so.
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