NY Court Inspector General reviewing ‘physical altercation’ between MCSO deputies, assistant public defender
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The New York Unified Court’s Inspector General is now reviewing a "physical altercation" between Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies and a Monroe County Assistant Public Defender last Friday.
The incident happened in Rochester City Court.
In a statement Friday morning, the Monroe County Bar Association first announced the IG’s involvement in the case. News10NBC then contacted the Director of Public Information, who confirmed the review is happening but did not provide additional information.
The statement read in part:
"On November 5, the Monroe County Bar Association learned of an incident involving the use of force by Monroe County Sheriff deputies on a female attorney of color at the Monroe County Hall of Justice. We do not have full information about the incident and what precipitated this use of force. "
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is also conducting an investigation into the incident, and released the following statement Friday:
"The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office continues to conduct a thorough
investigation into an incident involving an attorney appearing in Rochester City Court, occurring on Friday,
November 5, 2021. As part of our ongoing investigation into this matter, we will continue to respect the
Office of Court Administration’s process and procedures as we complete our investigation. As is consistent
with our investigations, after the process is complete, if it is determined MCSO developed probable cause to
believe a crime has been committed, criminal charges may be filed.
"The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has secured the courts, the judiciary, as well as attorneys practicing in the
courts and the public of Monroe County since its inception.
"While this incident is unfortunate, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and our deputies remain committed to
performing our duties to the best of our ability in ensuring the safety and security of everyone in our courts."
Monroe County Sheriff Deputies said at the time, at around 10:15 a.m., the assistant public defender was trying to get inside a restricted area of Rochester City Court while court was in session, but was told she could not because a "disruptive inmate" was posing a safety concern.
Sgt. Matthew Bottone said that the judge presiding over the courtroom, as well as a deputy, told her several times that she could not enter, then she became disruptive. A spokesperson from the Office of Court Administration said the Assistant Public Defender had no connection to the case.
Bottone said the judge and deputies then asked her to leave the courtroom, but she continued to be disruptive instead. She was being escorted out by deputies when Bottone says an altercation ensued.
He said three deputies sustained minor injuries and were treated by medical professionals and the Assistant Public Defender said her wrist hurt, so she was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital for evaluation, where it was determined her wrist was not fractured.
News10NBC has not independently verified the name of the assistant public defender, or the deputies invovled.
QUESTIONS OF FORCE
In response to the incident, both the Rochester Black Bar Association and the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office issued dueling statements, each saying it felt the use of force by deputies was not warranted.
"The Rochester Black Bar Association is shocked and dismayed by the decision to use such extraordinary force against a member of the bar. The use of force on any attorney is to be highly scrutinized. We are calling for a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident. In addition, we are requesting a meeting with Administrative Judge Taylor and the administration of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to review and discuss the policies and procedures relating to this use of force. The respect and safety of our members and other members of the bar is necessary in the administration of justice."
Monroe County Public Defender Tim Donaher Statement:
“We are aware that there was a physical altercation between our staff-person and a court deputy leading to our staff-person suffering a serious injury to her wrist. We want to express our full support for our staff-person. We do not believe the use of force was necessary under the circumstances presented, and we remain very concerned at the level of disproportionate force used by the deputies against a member of this office.”
Additionally, the MCBA Friday added it was "concerned" about the use of force against anyone within the court, let alone an attorney:
"The public has a right to know whether the use of force was necessary and proportional considering the facts and circumstances known at the time. We are pleased to learn that on Monday the matter was referred to the Unified Court System’s Inspector General for review."
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office previously said a criminal investigation is underway. The Office of Court Administration said charges are pending.