City Council Investigation Report: Did city officials suppress info on Prude death? Yes.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A report says city officials suppressed information about the arrest and death of Daniel Prude.
Friday, we, as many of you did, went through the report of the city council’s special investigation.
It says the former police chief de-emphasized the main reason why Daniel Prude died.
It says the mayor made an untrue statement to the public in September.
And it says the city’s lawyer used a false excuse to try to keep the police video of Prude’s arrest private.
In a statement attached to the report, attorney Andrew Celli, the lawyer hired to run the investigation asked "did officials of city government suppress information about the arrest and death of Daniel Prude between March and September? The straightforward answer is yes."
The 84-page report is critical of Mayor Lovely Warren, former police chief La’Ron Singletary and city attorney Tim Curtin.
First the mayor.
It says the mayor made an untrue statement to the public at this news conference in September, at the time we learned about the death of Daniel Prude.
Mayor Lovely Warren, Sept. 3, 2020: "I was informed later that day by Chief Singletary that Mr. Prude had an apparent drug overdose while in custody."
Page 18 says the chief "did not tell Mayor Warren that Mr. Prude had suffered a drug overdose."
The special counsel hired by the city told me the mayor never intentionally said anything untrue.
Carrie Cohen, special counsel to the city of Rochester: "To the extent the mayor said anything to the public regarding the circumstances of Mr. Prude’s death that ended up being misleading or untrue in any way it was because of the information she was being given by the former chief."
But the report specifically points to this answer Singletary gave at a news conference on Sept. 6 when asked what he told the mayor in March.
La’Ron Singletary, RPD chief Sept. 6, 2020: "I provided the mayor factual information the morning of the 23rd."
And the report levies the same criticism of the mayor.
When she told City Council President Loretta Scott about the death on August 6th, after the mayor had seen the body camera video, the report says the mayor "emphasized the role of PCP in Mr. Prude’s death" and "deemphasized the role of use of force."
On March 23, 2020, Prude was pinned to the street by RPD officers.
He stopped breathing and had no pulse.
Prude died a week later when he was taken off life support.
Now to the former chief.
The report says he "intentionally deemphasized" the main cause of Prude’s death and instead of telling city officials it was "asphyxia in setting of physical restraint" like the medical examiner’s report says, the former chief said Prude died from drugs and "resisting arrest."
And now to the city attorney.
The report specifically points to this comment made by attorney Tim Curtin on Sept. 4 explaining it was the state attorney general’s office who wanted the city to keep Prude’s death and video from the public.
Tim Curtin, Corporation Counsel Sept. 4, 2020: "My advice to the mayor at that point in time after we reviewed the tape was not to make any statements, not to involved the media as requested by the attorney general."
Page 12 of the report says there was "no factual basis" for Mr. Curtin to say that.
The report says "When Mr. Curtin learned a few days later that (municipal attorney) Ms. Prince had mailed the BWC footage to Mr. Shields, he expressed upset, questioning Ms. Prince’s judgment, and stating that the ‘City will burn’ and ‘we will all lose our jobs’ once the footage became public."
"The report confirms this was a cover-up from day one," attorney Elliot Shields said.
Shields is the attorney for Daniel Prude’s brother and sister.
His application to get the body camera video of Prude’s arrest in April was first denied by the city. He appealed and eventually got it in August.
And he was on the steps of City Hall in September when Prude’s death was revealed.
"The report simply fills in the gaps about who the players were that made the decisions to not release the video to the public and it confirms exactly what I said from the beginning – they had no lawful basis to deny our FOIL request," he said.
I asked for comments from the lawyers of La’Ron Singletary and from city attorney Tim Curtin.
Singletary’s lawyers sent the statement below:
Singletary Press Release (03.12.2021˜1p) by News10NBC on Scribd
I’m still waiting on Curtin’s.
Click here to read the statements News10NBC has received.