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What you need to know for 05/28/2017

Attorney: Officers injured handcuffed woman

Attorney: Officers injured handcuffed woman

Notice of claim filed against city
Attorney: Officers injured handcuffed woman
City Police Chief Eric Clifford would not comment on the allegations.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY -- Two city police officers pushed a handcuffed woman, causing a head injury that "bled profusely," while the woman was under arrest and inside a police department meeting room in September, according to the woman's attorney.

An officer then accused the woman of kicking him and charged her with harassment "as a means to conceal the actions of the police officers," said attorney Kevin Luibrand, in a notice of claim filed in the case. A notice of claim is the precursor to a lawsuit against a government entity.

Prosecutors later dropped the harassment charge against the woman, Nicola Cottone, Luibrand said. The entire incident was caught on surveillance video, which didn't support the charge against Cottone, according to Luibrand.

He filed the notice of claim on Cottone's behalf against the city, making excessive force and other claims. A hearing with the city is expected soon, Luibrand said. He and Cottone will then decide whether and when to take the next step by filing a lawsuit.

City Police Chief Eric Clifford would not comment on the allegations or on whether anyone has been disciplined related to the incident. City Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico also would not comment.

Luibrand is seeking at least $800,000 in damages, citing awards in similar cases.

The incident happened at about 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 13, according to the notice filed with the city. That was less than 30 minutes before Mayor Gary McCarthy named Clifford as the new police chief at a ceremony in Proctors.

Luibrand alleged two officers assaulted Cottone while her hands were cuffed behind her back. The officers then "pushed her with such unreasonable force as to cause a severe head injury," the notice states. The document also notes Cottone suffers from "emotional disorders."

She "bled profusely, both immediately after the incident and then up until paramedics came and attended to her," Luibrand said Monday. She was handcuffed throughout the incident, he added.

Luibrand said he has the surveillance video of the incident. There is no audio on the video.

He refused to share the video with The Daily Gazette.

He said he knows the identity of one of the two officers involved in the incident, but not the other. He did not identify the officer whose name he knows.

However, the now-dismissed harassment charge identifies the officer who claimed Cottone kicked him as Officer Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald alleged she kicked him during a struggle to control her, the document reads.

He has been a member of the department since 2010, when he was 25. He previously worked as a dispatcher.

MacDonald was the subject of an excessive force lawsuit filed in 2015. That lawsuit stemmed from a charge that was later dropped, according to court documents.

In that case, Michael T. Bennett, of Schenectady and Albany, claimed police falsely arrested him on Victory Avenue, shoved him down porch steps and slammed him to the concrete during the early morning of Sept. 30, 2014.

MacDonald was one of two officers named in the lawsuit. He was accused of knocking Bennett to the sidewalk, pinning his arms behind his back and handcuffing him. The lawsuit also accused MacDonald of lying in documents regarding the case.

Bennett was charged with resisting arrest, but dash cam video showed Bennett did not resist, the suit stated, and the charge was dropped.

The status of MacDonald's section of the Bennett lawsuit could not be determined Monday.

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