Defense argues anti-police bias in case of RPD officer accused of assault

May 21, 2019 06:15 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Testimony wrapped up Tuesday in the trial of a suspended Rochester Police officer charged with misdemeanor assault after he allegedly beat a man wrongly accused of a crime. 

Officer Michael Sippel is charged with assaulting Christopher Pate last May on Bloss Street. 


Before the defense finished its case Tuesday, it asked the judge to dismiss the charge against Sippel, a move that isn't considered unusual for the defense attorney to ask on behalf of his or her client. 

This was the second request from defense attorney Clark Zimmerman. 

He told the judge the prosecution has not met its burden to prove Sippel was not justified as a police officer to use force in this case. 

"Does prejudice go away...once you have a bias, it's part of the person's make up," Zimmerman said. 

Zimmerman says at the heart of this case is a man who had a bias towards police officers and didn't want to comply with their demands.

The two defense witnesses on the stand Tuesday were law enforcement officers.

A Rochester police officer testified about an all-out search for James Barrett, a wanted suspect who resembled Pate.

The officer testified Barrett had alluded police for more than a month by the time officers encountered Pate.

"If they had a reasonable belief that it was James Barrett, and that's part of the critical issue here, whether or not they thought it was James Barrett was reasonable. I think if you look at the similarity between the two individuals, it's very reasonable," said Zimmerman.

A former Irondequoit police officer also testified about an encounter with Pate nine years ago when he was assisting another officer at a traffic stop. He says Pate was asked to take his hands out of his pockets and turn around to be handcuffed and Pate refused.

On cross-examination, the witness admitted Pate was not involved in the traffic stop, had not committed a crime and that he pulled out his gun during this encounter. 

Prosecutor Gina Clark, who has been ill and hasn't wanted to speak on camera, had this to say as she left the courtroom: 

"You've been in the courtroom and you've seen the evidence...and that's what the case is."

Clark has said in court that the beating of Pate was an unjustified attack on a man who had not committed any crime, and that Sippel's actions violated the trust that the community places in police officers.


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