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Sentencing Delayed for Ex-Officer Guilty of Assault: Pate Files Suit Against City, Members of RPD

Patti Singer

Michael Sippel leaves court in May 2019 after being found guilty of assaulting Christopher Pate in May 2018. File photo

The sentencing for the former Rochester Police officer found guilty of assaulting Christopher Pate has been postponed for a second time.

Meanwhile, Pate has filed a lawsuit against the city and members of the Rochester Police Department.

Michael Sippel is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 9.

City Court Judge Thomas Rainbow Morse ruled in a bench trial May 28 that Sippel was guilty of third-degree assault against Pate in May 2018. Sippel was scheduled to be sentenced July 25, and that date was moved to Aug. 16. Late last week, the sentencing again was moved.

Body-camera footage presented at the trial showed the physical confrontation between Pate and officers, which resulted in Pate sustaining a broken orbital bone, among other injuries. Sippel was indicted by a Monroe County grand jury. Officer Spenser McAvoy, Sippel’s partner, was not indicted.

“This case has never been about whether police officers can use physical force to effect a valid arrest – they can,” Morse wrote in a one-page decision he read in May. “This case has never been about whether citizens can resist arrest whether it is authorized or not – they can’t. This case has always been about what happened between officers McAvoy and Sippel and Christopher Pate on the afternoon of May 5th 2018 and legal issues surrounding that street encounter.”

Sippel and McAvoy attempted to stop Pate because he appeared to resemble a suspect. The incident escalated over whether Pate showed ID. Pate repeatedly said that he was not the person the officers sought.

As a result of the misdemeanor conviction, Sippel was fired from the Rochester Police Department.

On Aug. 5, Pate filed a lawsuit against the city, Sippel, McAvoy, four other officers, a sergeant and “other unidentified members of the Rochester Police Department.”

Christopher Pate filed a lawsuit in August 2019 against the city and members of the Rochester Police Department. File photo

The lawsuit describes the incident of May 5, 2018, that led to the altercation. Court papers quote the conversation between officers and Pate and between the officers themselves. The lawsuit also lists prior history of misconduct by Sippel.

The lawsuit alleges false arrest/false imprisonment; two violations of Fourth Amendment rights; assault and battery; two claims of malicious prosecution; supervisory liability; negligent screening and hiring; two claims of municipal liability; and negligent training, supervision and retention.

The suit seeks “judgment against Defendants, and each of
them, jointly and severally, together with attorney fees and the costs and disbursement of this action.”