Former Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary has filed a lawsuit against the city and Mayor Lovely Warren, alleging defamation, constructive termination and retaliatory confirmation related to the death of Daniel Prude.
The suit was filed Sept. 1, the day before the one-year mark of Rochester learning about the in-custody death of Daniel Prude that occurred in March 2020.
On Sept. 2, 2020, family members announced the death and reverberations from that day and the protests that followed continue to be felt.
In the lawsuit, Singletary alleged that Warren and others acting on her behalf “impugned” his performance as chief “by making false statements and material omissions about his performance and his discharge of duties” relating to the death of Daniel Prude. Singletary claimed Warren’s “false narrative about the Prude matter created a hostile work environment” that the then-chief said prevented him from doing his job. He said he “repeatedly refused to lie” about the death of Daniel Prude.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages of no less than $300,000 for the charge of defamation, no less than $300,000 for the charge of constructive termination and no less than $600,000 for the charge of retaliatory termination.
A statement from city spokesman Justin Roj referenced the investigation by the special counsel hired by City Council and said Singletary’s testimony “detailed his own inability to tell the truth … . Mr. Singletary failed in his duties as Chief and was rightfully terminated due to those failures.”
During one of the news conferences right after Daniel Prude’s death became public, Warren was asked if she would fire Singletary. At that time, Warren said she would work with him on areas of improvement.
Singletary announced his retirement on Sept. 8, 2020, to be effective Sept. 29. Warren fired him on Sept. 14.
Singletary had filed and served a notice of claim on the city and Warren on Dec. 3, 2020.
The lawsuit presents a timeline, starting on March 23, 2020 when Singletary first learned of the encounter between Daniel Prude and Rochester police officers.
According to the suit, Singletary was told at 10:55 p.m. March 30 by a member of his command staff that Daniel Prude had died. Singletary contacted Warren on March 31 and said the cause of death would be determined at some point by the medical examiner.
The suit stated that on April 10, Singletary texted Warren and asked her to call him about the death. He also texted the city’s attorneys about the medical examiner’s ruling of death from homicide and said he was waiting to hear from Warren to provide her “the latest information.”
The lawsuit said Warren did not return the call. It said that on April 13, after a virtual press conference, Singletary told Warren about the medical examiner’s ruling.
The lawsuit recounted excerpts from conversations and text messages between Singletary and Warren and between Singletary and other members of the administration. It also includes excerpts of two television interviews with Warren about the matter.
In the suit, Singletary makes the claim that the retaliatory termination caused him to suffer the loss of his health care benefits. In addition to monetary awards for the three claims, the suit seeks “such other and further relief” as the court determines.