Plastic surgeon and Great Neck resident Matthew Bonanno declined to testify when he appeared before a grand jury on Friday, Aug. 23.
Bonanno was arrested on Aug. 14 by the Tuckahoe Village Police Department in Westchester County after local police said they received a tip from a friend of Bonanno’s that he was armed and discussing a plan to kill his ex-wife and family, whom he had driven up from Great Neck to attend a family barbeque with that day.
Bonanno has been indicted with 59 counts of criminal possession of weapons after police found he had a handgun with him during his arrest and a subsequent search of his truck (parked outside his ex-wife’s house) revealed a trunk full of military-grade weapons, including five assault rifles, body armor and smoke grenades.
A separate search of Bonanno’s Avalon Great Neck apartment by the Nassau County Police Department turned up more assault rifles, the prosecution said. Nassau police have declined to comment on the matter, citing department policy.
Presiding Westchester County Court judge George Fufidio initially set a $100,000 bail in the case on Wednesday, Aug. 21. The defense declined to pay, citing a shortage of funds and pending charges in Nassau County.
Possessing non-antique assault weapons is prohibited in the State of New York, and several of the weapons, most of which the prosecuting Westchester District Attorney’s Office says were purchased in a $46,000 one-day spree by Bonanno at a Florida gun shop, were unregistered.
Bonanno’s attorney, Paul Gentile, said his client is an avid firearms collector, and the weapons and related paraphernalia, which he was transporting and planned to have registered, were part of that collection.
Gentile, a former Bronx County District Attorney, also claimed Bonanno’s ex-wife Marianna Soropolous, at whose house Bonanno had spent the day prior to being arrested, declined to press charges and contacted Gentile out of court to tell him her former husband is not dangerous.
“She came forward and said there’s no basis at all for this business about her being threatened,” Gentile said. “She spent the entire day with him, they went out to dinner with their daughter. She came to court in his support.”
Soropolous appeared at Bonanno’s bail hearing, but has not spoken in court or to the media. Westchester County Assistant District Attorney Jean Priscoe claimed Tuckahoe police have received reports that Bonanno had threatened to kill Soropoulos in the past. Gentile later told the Great Neck Record the prosecution knows those threat claims wouldn’t hold up in court.
“All of the charges concerning threats were dropped,” Gentile said. “At the heart of this entire case was making him a danger, but in fact he’s a passive collector.”
Westchester County First Deputy District Attorney Paul Noto added that Soropolous testifying or pressing charges is irrelevant to their case.
“The weapons charges are standalone,” Noto said. “The assault rifles are illegal in New York, period. The facts speak for themselves. To the extent that laws are broken, we intend to prosecute him.”