Police Abuse

A Cop Rear-Ended a Car, Sending a Toddler to the Hospital. The Car's Driver Was Breathalyzed. The Cop Wasn't.

Plus: Twitter whistleblower reports, court says FDA must reconsider vaping products, and more...


A damning report suggests Long Island cops may have covered up drunk driving by one of their own after an off-duty officer crashed into a car carrying a man and his two children. One of the children was left with injuries that he's still recovering from two years later. The officer, David Mascarella, was never charged.

The crash took place in August 2020, when a Ram truck driven by Mascarella rear-ended a Mitsubishi car driven by Kevin Cavooris. Mascarella—who was reportedly driving at a speed of more than 50 miles per hour—crashed into the car as Cavooris slowed down to make a turn.

"A witness reported to police that Mascarella had driven erratically for approximately a mile-and-a-half before the collision," according to Newsday. "The police accident report and crime scene diagram reflected no evidence that he braked before the pickup slammed into the Mitsubishi."

Cavooris' two sons, Bastian and Riordan, were in car seats in the back seat. The crash fractured the skull of Riordan, then 2 years old, while leaving his then-4-year-old brother with bruises all over his body and his dad with a broken nose. Riordan still wears a leg brace to walk and cannot run or jump, the family said.

Seeking answers about the crash, the Cavooris family filed a Freedom of Information request with the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), forcing the department to hand over video recordings and all sorts of police documents related to the crash. The family shared this evidence with Newsday, which reports at length on their suspicious contents:

Mascarella was assigned to the Fourth Precinct in Smithtown. Fellow precinct officers and a sergeant responded to the crash and handled the initial investigation. A deputy inspector later took command. Newsday determined that:

• Sgt. Lawrence McQuade and precinct officers failed at the scene to ask Mascarella to submit to a breath test that would have provided a preliminary reading of whether he was intoxicated.

• After a detective told McQuade that he wanted Mascarella to undergo a preliminary breath test, McQuade notified a Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association delegate. The delegate, Officer Joseph Russo, then drove Mascarella away from investigators, McQuade reported.

• Ordered to catch up with Mascarella, Fourth Precinct Officer Kevin Wustenhoff falsely reported to a supervisor that he had given Mascarella the breath test and that Mascarella had passed it, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the case. Wustenhoff retracted the account, the source said.

• Three hours after the crash, Deputy Insp. Mark Fisher asked Mascarella to take the breath test. Mascarella refused. When a driver refuses a preliminary breath test, police typically seek a warrant to have the driver's blood drawn and tested for alcohol. Fisher only issued a traffic ticket to Mascarella.

• Police failed to notify the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office on the night of the crash that an officer had been involved in an unexplained, high-speed rear-end crash, had seriously injured a 2-year-old and had refused a breath test. The omission prevented the DA from considering whether to seek a warrant to test Mascarella's blood.

• Although five officers wrote reports stating they saw no evidence that Mascarella was intoxicated, prosecutors under then-DA Tim Sini subsequently investigated the crash with an eye toward charging Mascarella with vehicular assault. Lacking a blood test that would have revealed whether Mascarella was intoxicated, they closed the investigation without action.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney (who was not in office at the time of the crash) told Newsday that "because certain evidence was not collected by SCPD on the date of the incident, we were unable to make a determination as to whether or not a crime was committed."

Video shows Mascarella throwing something from his truck window after the crash, but there's no indication that this was investigated, either.

Cavooris, however, was asked to take a breath test for alcohol. It registered that he had not been drinking.

Mascarella is still employed by the SCPD, though he has been suspended without pay since February and a police spokesperson told Newsday that the police commissioner is moving to fire him.

Wustenhoff, the officer who falsely reported that Mascarella had been given a breathalyzer test, was suspended without pay for 45 days and then placed on administrative duties. In three years, he'll be eligible to retire with a 50 percent pension, and a source told Newday that as part of the discipline Wustenhoff agreed to retire then.

The disciplinary action comes only after Newsday started poking around into local police accountability for causing injuries and deaths:

In December last year, Newsday began to publish case histories documenting that the internal affairs systems of the Nassau and Suffolk County police departments had imposed little or no discipline on officers in cases involving serious civilian injuries or deaths. This is the sixth case history.

The Nassau County Police Department has claimed continuing power to withhold almost all internal disciplinary records. The Suffolk County Police Department has released records only in cases where charges had been upheld against officers.

Newsday is pressing lawsuits against both departments with the goal of establishing that the public has a right to review how Long Island's police forces police themselves.

You can read some of the previous investigations here, here, here, and here.


Former Twitter executive warns of company's security practices. Peiter Zatko filed several whistleblower reports related to Twitter's security practices, bots, and the handling of misinformation. Zatko—also known as Mudge—was fired from the company in January. In a post at Techdirt, Mike Masnick weighs Zatko's claims:

Throughout the whistleblowing report, Mudge highlights many, many problems with Twitter's infrastructure, and some of the security and uptime risk it created. Much of what Mudge reports on this is… quite believable — especially for anyone who has followed Twitter over the years. It's also, frankly, not all that different than many internet companies that experienced rapid scaling in the last decade and a half. Outside of the biggest tech companies (Google, Meta/Facebook, Amazon, and Apple — each of which I guarantee has their own security issues, though often of a different nature, and each of which has a much more developed security process), I would guess most of what's in Mudge's report rings true at basically every other decently large internet company.

That's not an excuse, and one hopes that whistleblowing like this gets more of these companies to recognize that they need better processes and security in place. …

That said, some former Twitter engineers who worked with Mudge seem to be calling into question some of these claims.

Masnick gets into much more detail about the claims (and counterclaims)—including those involving foreign governments—here.


A win for vaping companies in court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has handed a preliminary win to six vaping product makers who say the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was too hasty in denying them a marketing order. A marketing order is essentially an FDA permission slip "to legally market a new tobacco product in the United States." Six companies—Diamond Vapor LLC, Johnny Copper LLC, Vapor Unlimited LLC, and Union Street Brands LLC—challenged the FDA's denial of such an order for e-liquids meant for open-tank vaping devices.

"These tobacco companies submitted survey information from their customers about smoking cessation, literature reviews, scientific studies about switching to e-cigarettes, smoking cessation, and the role of flavors, and details about its marketing and
youth-access-prevention plans," notes the court in its opinion. "For example, Diamond uses technology for its online sales that relies on public records to verify a purchaser's age."

But the FDA "refused to consider the marketing and sales-access-restriction plans based on both its need for efficiency and its experience that marketing and sales-access restrictions do not sufficiently reduce youth use of electronic nicotine products," the court points out. The agency "failed to consider the relevant marketing and sales-access-restrictions plans, the marketing denial orders were arbitrary and capricious," the court found. "So, we grant the petitions for review, set aside the marketing denial orders, and remand to the Administration."

You can read the full decision here.


A congressional report suggests that not all UFOs are man-made.

• A dad took naked photos of his toddler to send to a pediatrician for diagnostic purposes. Google flagged him as a criminal.

• An elementary school principal in the Bay Area called the cops on a 4-year-old who wasn't wearing a mask, to remove him and his father from school premises.

• "The Los Angeles City Council has voted unanimously to place on the March 2024 ballot a measure that would require hotels to accept the placement of homeless persons in vacant rooms," notes Walter Olson at the Cato Institute. "The measure would 'require hotels to report the number of vacant rooms' to the city each afternoon for this purpose."

• A court has convicted two people accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "The first time federal prosecutors tried to convince a jury that a group of men plotted to kidnap Michigan's Democratic governor, they failed to get a single conviction," notes The New York Times. "But on Tuesday, jurors in a second trial found the two remaining defendants guilty."

• A bill in California "would also create a means to hold companies like McDonald's and Pizza Hut legally responsible for any labor violations at individual stores, even if those individual stores are owned by franchisees," Vox reports.

• Charlie Crist, now a Democrat (but formerly served as governor of Florida as a Republican), will face off against current Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in the fall: