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Judge allows portions of body-worn camera in trial of RPD officer accused of assault

May 16, 2019 08:46 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- The bench trial began Wednesday for a suspended Rochester Police officer charged with misdemeanor assault after he allegedly beat a man wrongly accused of a crime. 

Michael Sippel is accused of assaulting Christopher Pate, of Rochester, back in May 2018. Sippel and another officer spotted Pate walking down Bloss Street. Pate matched the description of a wanted suspect so the officers approached him in an unmarked car and asked for identification.

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For the first time Wednesday, a judge allowed portions of body-worn camera video that showed the altercation between Christopher Pate and the two police officers.

Watch below for the video played inside Rochester City Court Wednesday during the trial of Officer Michael Sippel by a court-approved camera. (Warning: Video contains content and explicit language that may be disturbing to some viewers.) 

Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Gina Clark opened the trial with this: "Above the law...no one is above the law. Not law enforcement...not him," she said pointing at Sippel.

Clark told the judge that Sippel was not justified in the actions that left Christopher Pate with face lacerations, a fractured orbital bone, puncture wounds in his back and substantial pain. 

"You will see after watching the video that Mr. Sippel abused the power that the people of Rochester entrusted him with."

The judge watched the event, captured on Officer Spencer McAvoy's body-worn camera, Sippel's partner. It shows Pate walking down Bloss Street on May 5 when he is approached by Officer McAvoy. McAvoy, then Sippel, repeatedly asked Pate to show his ID. He does finally, but Sippel then goes after Pate.

The officers had been searching for another man and said Pate resembled him.

Clark says after Pate showed his ID, Sippel didn't stop.

"The evidence will show that the defendant was the initial aggressor and there was no justification for any arrest," Clark said.

Defense attorney Clark Zimmerman sees things differently.

"I think the proof will show that while a citizen has a right to walk away from police, they also have an obligation, perhaps a responsibility, to cooperate with a police, ongoing investigation," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says it was miscommunication more than anything. 

"I think, at the end of the day, I think there will be a determination made that these officers did act within the scope of their duties and clearly there was never any intent on the part of Officer Sippel to cause any physical injury..."

Back in August, News10NBC recieved video of the incident showing the two officers pinning Pate down.

The former police chief says Pate was wrongfully arrested during what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. 

The other officer involved was not criminally charged.

The bench trial is set to resume Thursday morning. 

Credits

Lynette Adams

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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