Council committee OKs proposed settlement in Schenectady excessive force suit

Full City Council is expected to vote on payout to victim Oct. 9
Nicola Cottone's injuries (inset); Schenectady police officer Mark McCracken (background)
Nicola Cottone's injuries (inset); Schenectady police officer Mark McCracken (background)

SCHENECTADY — The proposed settlement of the excessive force lawsuit filed by a woman against the city and police officer Mark McCracken was unanimously approved Monday by the City Council’s Claims Committee.

After the vote, independent Councilman Vince Riggi, chairman of the committee, would not disclose the amount. He could only say that “It’s a lot of money.”

“It’s a tentative settlement,” Riggi said. “It’s not done until all of the parties involved are on board with it.”

The full council is expected to vote on the proposed settlement at its meeting Oct. 9.

The existence of a proposed settlement was revealed on Sept. 25 through a court filing by Kevin Luibrand, attorney for Nicola Cottone, in the U.S. Court of Northern District of New York in Syracuse. The lawsuit was brought by Cottone against the city in September 2017. In it, Cottone alleged various violations of her rights, along with assault and battery.

The Police Department’s professional standards unit found in March that McCracken used excessive force against Cottone while she was handcuffed, causing a large head wound. The investigation also revealed McCracken took a photo of Cottone’s injury and showed it to other officers, which violated department policy, according to a report written by recently retired Lt. Edward Barbagelata.

The report, which was included in the filings for the lawsuit, did not detail what punishment was given to McCracken.

According to Barbagelata’s report, Lt. James Sanders said in a statement that McCracken showed him a photo of Cotton on the day of the incident and said, “This is what happens when someone hits one of my men.”

The settlement of the lawsuit comes after McCracken dealt with other legal issues earlier this year.

In January, he was charged with violating an order of custody and visitation held by his wife, Cassie Walker. She claimed McCracken came in “close physical proximity” to her during their son’s hockey game at a Union College hockey rink Jan. 7.

Walker and McCracken were in the process of getting divorced at the time.

McCracken later accepted an offer from the Schenectady County Attorney’s Office for an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal of the criminal contempt charge filed after that incident.

The Police Department had placed McCracken on administrative leave following his arrest. He eventually was taken off of leave and was demoted from lieutenant to patrol officer. The department would not say whether the demotion was related to his legal issues.

The charge was scheduled to have been dismissed Sept. 26, as long as McCracken stayed out of trouble.

McCracken at one point was in the running to become police chief but was passed over for the post in favor of Eric Clifford.

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