Wednesday, December 8

Complex Legal Issues Surround Misconduct Case of Officers Beating Bank Robbery Suspect

A surveillance video was released on March 6 and shows footage to the public for the first time of an alleged police brutality incident in the Carmel, NY town hall.

The video depicts an interaction between bank robbery suspect Kenneth DeFreitas and former Senior Investigator Patrick Castaldo of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. Taken in the Carmel Town Hall lobby, the video shows Chief Investigator Gerald Schramek and Castaldo bringing DeFreitas into the building for a court date on July 3 at 6:04 p.m.

The two officers take DeFreitas into a side room before the trial. Castaldo makes three trips to the lobby afterward and is seen standing by the entry doors on the phone.

At 6:34, Schramek and DeFreitas are seen on the video coming out of the side room. Schramek stands by the doors and holds a file in his right hand, and DeFreitas, standing behind Schramek, makes a move for Schramek’s gun.

Schramek tackles DeFreitas and Castaldo races out of the ride room to assist.

Castaldo then appears to kick DeFreitas, stand him up, punch him in the back, and then kick him again after DeFreitas had fallen to the floor. Schramek also pulls DeFreitas along the floor by his shackled ankles.

The two officers are seen in discussion and then heading into the side room once more, leaving DeFreitas by the vending machines on the lobby floor, and it’s not until 6:52 p.m. that another officer arrives to escort DeFreitas away.

“Video evidence provides a means of holding officers accountable for illegal actions, but also can help to weed out instances of false claims of illegal actions,” says Katie Bennett, Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp LLP. “Here, it appears that video evidence may have played a role in the amount of the settlement obtained by DeFreitas, who can be seen reaching for Schramek’s gun. However, the video evidence also likely played a key role in the grand jury’s decision to indict Castaldo and shows that you cannot have gratuitous violence once the threat has passed.”

The video was viewed during the trial in December, and it resulted in a $35,000 settlement paid to DeFreitas. Despite the legal issues surrounding a suspect attempting to take an officer’s gun, the settlement was approved by Putnam County legislators in December.

Castaldo was also charged with a felony for filing a false instrument and two misdemeanors of official misconduct and attempted assault. He and Schramek have since left the department.

DeFreitas was accused of robbing an AandP in Southeast and the Putnam County National Bank in Carmel in 2014, along with facing additional charges. He is still in jail.

Castaldo was indicted by a grand jury in late February and currently awaits trial.

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