Man Arrested at Town Hall After Confrontation

A man who bypassed security at Huntington Town Hall and later got into a scuffle with the public safety director was arrested last week.

Updated: Suffolk police said that Vincent DiBenedetto, 44, of East Meadow was arrested and charged with Assault 3rd Degree after punching a man at Huntington Town Hall on March 22 at approximately 3:10 p.m. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

The incident was similar to scores of others that occur regularly around the country, with people, who often refer to themselves as First Amendment auditors, or independent journalists. and get into disputes over access and filming at public buildings.

The videos are then uploaded to Youtube where owners make money through views and by selling t-shirts or other products.

Many insist that they have full access to all public buildings or spaces, such as Post Offices, libraries and police station parking lots and try to film public employees while they work. Those making the films often insult or curse security people who try to limit the filming or tell them to leave the property.

DiBenedetto says he is not an auditor, while saying his First and Fourth Amendment rights are being violated. But on Youtube he says he watches a lot of “auditor” clips and learned about his rights from doing so. He calls those appearing in other similar videos “freedom fighters and heroes.”

In last week’s case, DiBenedetto, accompanied by his wife, refused to provide his identification to guards at the security booth at the entrance to Town Hall, saying he had a right to enter a public building, a town spokeswoman said. DiBenedetto said he needed a copy of a death certificate and  went around security to the town clerk’s office, a spokeswoman said.

While there, he was videoing the clerk’s office but was told he was violating the privacy of residents there because certain kinds of paperwork could have been filmed. He then got into a confrontation with Public Safety Director Joe Cirigliano, who attempted to hold up a sign to block the camera. At one point, the sign hit Cirigliano, who told the man he would be arrested for assault.

In a second part of the video, the man says that  he was struck and as a result, “I punched the security guy in the face one time only to defend myself. Yet, I am the one who got arrested.”

One of the commenters refers to the security booth as “a Nazi checkpoint.”

The clip of the confrontation isn’t presented with continuity; it is shown in between statements made by the account holder, DiBenedetto and another commentator, who describe what they say happened, alternating with insults directed at Cirigliano’s professionalism and experience. Cirgliano was a resident agent in charge for the Secret Service for more than 20 years.

Three more people visited Town Hall Monday, a spokeswoman said, and Suffolk police responded, though there was no information on the outcome.

The confrontation underlines a conflict between rights: public access and safety. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

“Our prime concern is that we just want to ensure the safety of our staff and legitimate visitors to feel secure and safe, so there’s no disruption in people being able to complete their business,” town spokeswoman Christine Geed said.

Security at Huntington Town Hall has been tight in recent years. In addition to presenting identification and being issued a sticker that must be worn, visitors are subject to wanding.

DiBenetto was released on his own recognizance and a temporary order of protection was issued. He is due back in court April 10.


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One Reply to “Man Arrested at Town Hall After Confrontation”

  1. Until we do something to keep assault weapons at bay, I’m okay with all the extra security at Town Hall. A lot of people feel like the Town is bullying them for one reason or another. Someone is bound to “loose their cool” sooner or later.

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