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Attorney Wants Court to Force Singletary to Testify About Prude Incident

Patti Singer

Former Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary. File photo

The attorney for the law firm hired by City Council to investigate the circumstances around the death of Daniel Prude has asked the court to force former Police Chief La’Ron Singletary to testify.

The petition was filed Dec. 16 in state Supreme Court.

It capped a week of news relating to investigations into the events surrounding the death of Daniel Prude — release of the investigation by the Office of Public Integrity into the city’s response to his arrest on March 23 and Singletary’s filing of a notice of claim to sue the city.

Attorney Andrew Celli Jr. had issued a subpoena to Singletary on Sept. 24. It was one of nine issued within a week to City Council, the Rochester Police Department, Mayor Lovely Warren, the city law department, the city’s information technology department, Communications Director Justin Roj, city attorneys Timothy Curtin and Stephanie Prince and Deputy Mayor James Smith as part of City Council’s independent investigation of City Hall and the police regarding the death.

At the time, Singletary communicated through his attorney Michael Tallon that the former chief would not cooperate but Celli could advise Tallon once all subpoenaed information had been obtained from the other sources. Tallon said that Singletary is saving documents in his control.

According to the petition to compel Singletary’s testimony, the former chief is the only current or former Rochester public official to refuse to respond to the subpoenas already issued. The word “only” was in italics.

The petition states that Singletary’s refusal deprives the residents of Rochester of relevant information in the form of documents and his own words. It also states that evidence suggests Singletary and the mayor spoke privately and alone – in person and on the phone – about the incident and that their versions of the discussions may differ. Additionally, the petition states Singletary is the sole person who can testify about what orders and instructions he gave after Daniel Prude’s death to RPD command staff and investigators.

The petition also states that since Singletary has filed a notice of claim with his version of events, his testimony is necessary.

Tallon released a statement on Dec. 15 that Singletary is agreeable to a global deposition between Jan. 4 and Jan. 8.

The city issued a statement about Singletary’s notice:

“The City administration continues to fully comply with the ongoing review by City Council into the death of Daniel Prude, as it did with the OPI investigation that found no wrongdoing. As for the Notice of Claim, it confirms the fact that Mayor Warren was never shown the body worn camera footage of the incident by former chief Singletary. It also confirms that Mayor Warren first saw the video on August 4 when it was provided by Corporation Counsel, a fact that Mr. Singletary refused to acknowledge until now. The City will fully defend taxpayers against this frivolous suit.”

As for the investigation by the Office of Public Integrity, it concluded there was no evidence that any city employee violated city or departmental policies or ethical standards.

“Based on this finding and the limited scope of the investigation, this matter is closed as ‘Not Provable,’” the report stated.

The investigation started Sept. 14 and was the report was issued Dec. 10. The objective was to get a better understanding of the communication and actions of city employees, including Warren and Smith, to determine.

The report includes summaries of the undividual interviews with Warren, Smith, Roj, Curtin and Prince. There also is a timeline of events.

Some findings in the OPI report:

Actions by city employees: There was no evidence that city employees knew more about the death of Daniel Prude than each publicly stated. Text messages from Singletary were sent to the the mayor’s personal cell phone and were not available to OPI.

City lacks a policy addressing responsibility of senior management to report critical events: The decision is left to the discretion of each member of the senior management team. “This approach increases the risk of senior leaderships failing to meet the expectations of the mayor with respect to timely disclosure of such events.” OPI recommended that a written policy be established.

Policy and procedures for the city’s Freedom of Information Law program are not adequately documented: Recommendations include centralizing overall management of the FOIL process, which would include establishing a clear chain of command in the FOIL office.