Sunday, January 07, 2007

Menorah kicker arrested for hate crime


January 06, 2007

This arrest was the result of great police work.

A 20-year-old man caught on video delivering a flying kick to an 8-foot menorah in St. James was arrested and charged with a hate crime, Suffolk police said Saturday.

Andrew Cucciniello, of 24 Great Oak Rd., St. James, was to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on a charge of criminal mischief as a hate crime, a felony with a maximum 7-year sentence.

'This arrest was the result of great police work,' Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said in a statement. 'My administration and the Suffolk County Police Department will continue to aggressively pursue perpetrators of such heinous hate crimes. We will simply not tolerate this type of act in our county.'

Police did not say what led investigators to Cucciniello, who was arrested Friday. A woman who answered the phone at Cucciniello's home Saturday night declined to comment.

A man dressed in dark-colored clothing was seen in a blurry, black-and-white surveillance video, running up to the menorah in the St. James Chamber of Commerce display on Lake Avenue about 3 a.m. Dec. 17, jumping about 4 feet high and delivering a toppling kick.

The footage was captured by a camera near the site of the menorah. It is one of several in the county that is installed during the holiday season to monitor activity where religious decorations are displayed.

The menorah was left in five or six pieces on the grass near Lake Avenue and rebuilt the following day about 2 feet higher and twice as wide.

'I feel bad for a person who has that bad of judgment,' said Scott Posner, the chamber's chairman of the board. 'But we harbor no ill will toward ...'

The incident was the first of three menorah desecrations in Suffolk. No arrests have been made in the other cases, in Bay Shore and Islip.

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