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Grand jury: Deputy cleared in police chase death

Grand jury: Deputy cleared in police chase death

Motorcyclist killed during pursuit; recommendations made
Grand jury: Deputy cleared in police chase death
Joshua Camp (left) and Schoharie County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Mudge.

SCHOHARIE — A Schoharie County grand jury cleared a sheriff's deputy of any criminal wrongdoing in the police chase death of a man last year, according to an unsealed grand jury report.

The same grand jury also offered a list of policy and equipment recommendations to the Sheriff's Department based on the June 2016 incident. Among the recommendations: Establish a policy on police pursuits.

Sheriff Anthony Desmond said this week that the policy recommendations have been implemented. Equipment recommendations are awaiting funding.

Killed in the chase was Joshua Camp, 31, of Middleburgh, when Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Mudge attempted to stop Camp at around 7 p.m. on June 17, 2016 in Middleburgh, but Camp fled, state police have said.

Camp died after he lost control of the dirt bike, was thrown from the vehicle and hit by the deputy's marked patrol SUV, authorities have said. Airlifted to Albany Medical Center, Camp later died of his injuries.

District Attorney James Sacket presented the case to the grand jury in February and March. It issued its report in April and a judge unsealed it in June and ordered it filed in the County Clerk's Office.

Sacket could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but an attorney for Mudge, George LaMarche, on Wednesday said the report confirmed what Mudge already knew.

"This confirms what he knew all along, that he didn't do anything wrong, that this was a tragic, unfortunate occurrence for Joshua Camp that wouldn't have happened if Joshua Camp had been compliant with the law," LaMarche said.

The report's filing followed weeks after Camp's estate filed suit against Schoharie County, the Sheriff's Department and Mudge.

The estate contends that Mudge acted  "carelessly, recklessly and negligently" in operating his department vehicle and striking Camp, the June lawsuit reads. It also alleges that Mudge recklessly disregarded Camp's rights through his job performance and operation of the SUV and that it "was so reckless, outrageous and grossly negligent as to shock the conscience."

The suit claims the county and Sheriff's Department were negligent in hiring, training and supervising Mudge. The estate seeks unspecified damages and follows a notice of claim filed with the county late last year.

Anthony Cardona, attorney for the Camp estate, did not return calls for comment.

County Attorney Michael West declined to comment on the suit Wednesday, saying it had been transferred to the county's insurance company to defend. Desmond cited the ongoing suit in declining to comment on the case other than the grand jury's recommendations.

The grand jury heard testimony from 11 witnesses, five of them civilians, the report reads. Three came from the state police and three, including Mudge, came from the Sheriff's Department. It also considered 11 exhibits. 

The body found "no misconduct, non-feasance or neglect in office" on the part of Mudge that resulted in Camp's death, the report reads.

The grand jury then issued a total of five recommendations to the Sheriff's Department for "legislative, executive or administrative action in the public interest" based on its findings.

The report lacks a narrative on the events that evening, including explanations behind the recommendations.

The grand jury recommended the Sheriff's Department establish the police pursuit policy or mission statement, as well as implement annual training regarding police pursuits. The department should ensure that lights and sirens are easily accessible to the officer. Dash cameras could also be installed to record events, the grand jury wrote.

The department should establish lights and siren protocol for pursuits, the jury said. A supervisor should be available to assist officers in making pursuit decisions, the grand jury added. 
Desmond said the pursuit policy is now in place. Funding is being sought for the equipment recommendations.

Asked about the lights and siren recommendations, LaMarche did not have the full details off hand Wednesday. But, he said, he believed Mudge recalled his lights being on, but there was some question among accounts about his siren.

Mudge remains a deputy with the department, LaMarche said. He was appointed in 2012, records show.

Sacket initially sent the investigation to the state Attorney General's Office, due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order that authorized the attorney general to investigate and prosecute cases that involve deaths of unarmed suspects in confrontations with police. 

The Attorney General's Office, however, returned it to Schoharie County, finding the executive order did not apply in the Camp case.

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