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Firefighters found not guilty in catering hall assault case

07/11/2018 9:01 AM |

The three Hagerman Fire Department members who faced assault charges stemming from a March 3 fight that pitted members of the fire department against a wedding party at East Wind Caterers in Wading River were all found not guilty by a jury in Riverhead Town Justice Court Monday. 

Firefighters Andrew Dunham, Brendan Dunham and Corey Citarella of East Patchogue had all been charged with third-degree assault, and Andrew Dunham was additionally charged with second-degree harassment.

The groom, Robert Kraham of Kings Park, suffered a broken nose, a concussion, and other injuries and was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center following the midnight brawl. He said in court that he was knocked unconscious for about 30 seconds.

But defense attorneys Christopher Ross and Mary-Elizabeth Abbate pointed out to jurors that video showed a supposedly badly-injured Mr. Kraham repeatedly going back into the melee, which had restarted several times.

The fight was started by women from both groups, according to prosecutors and witnesses who testified during the six-day trial. While female memmbers of the wedding party sat at the bottom of a staircase taking pictures, some members of the fire department group squeezed through as they headed down the stairs and one of them stepped on one of the bridesmaid’s dresses, setting off an argument, which turned physical, according to witness testimony during the trial. The fire department was having an installation diner at the catering hall that night.

Mr. Ross and Ms. Abbate repeatedly pointed out to jurors that police said they did not witness any of the fighting first hand, and that they relied on a security video and on testimony from Mr. Kraham, who identified the people he said hit him.

Riverhead Police Sgt. Brian Gleason, who has since retired, said he viewed the video at East Wind, and had a copy made, but that police were never able to get it to work on the computers at police headquarters.

Mr. Ross and Ms. Abbate both said that on cross examination, Mr. Kraham said he did not see Mr. Citarella hit him.

Mr. Kraham also told police that another man had hit him, and that man was detained by police but later set free when officers learned from the video that he did not hit anyone, defense attorneys pointed out.

Assistant District Attorney Blythe Miller said the video does show Brendan Dunham punching Mr. Kraham, while his brother Andrew holds Mr. Kraham back and Mr. Citarella pushes some people.

Ms. Miller acknowledged that it was “not a perfect video.” The town’s video player also broke down several times during the trial.

Ms. Miller showed before-and-after photos to jurors showing Mr. Kraham with blood on his face and wearing a neck brace after the brawl.

The trial before Judge Lori Hulse started on June 28 and was held in the Town Hall meeting room, rather than the cramped justice court.

Earlier this year, Thomas Dunham, the father of the Brendan and Andrew Dunham and a first assistant chief in the department, was acquitted on resting arrest charge and convicted of second-degree obstructing government administration based on the same incident at East Wind.

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