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Suit underway in Schenectady police head injury case

Suit underway in Schenectady police head injury case

Officers accused of using excessive force
Suit underway in Schenectady police head injury case
A Schenectady police car is parked in front of Mont Pleasant Middle School.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY — A woman who contends city police used excessive force by slamming her head into a bench while handcuffed behind her back has filed suit against the city.

Nicola Cottone seeks unspecified monetary damages in the federal filing. She alleges various violations of her rights, as well as assault and battery.

The city of Schenectady denies the allegations.

Her attorney, Kevin Luibrand, filed the case in September. The court recently set down a schedule for the case and attorneys are to update the court on any settlement negotiations in January.

Cottone was detained in the city Police Department the morning of Sept. 13, 2016, her hands cuffed behind her back while she suffered "from the effects of mental impairment," her suit reads, and officers could see her impairment.

Among the allegations is that the department failed to properly train and supervise officers on how to respond to mentally and emotionally impaired citizens in custody.

The officers, who are identified in the suit only as "John Does," exacerbated her impairment by yelling at and inciting her, the suit reads. 

The officers "then, in response to Cottone's emotional distress and while Cottone was handcuffed from behind, lifted Cottone and applied excessive force to Cottone," causing her head to strike "against a hardened wood bench edge," the suit reads.

The impact caused "her head to split open," according the suit.

Luibrand has said he has surveillance video of the incident. He has refused to share the video with The Daily Gazette.

The city's attorney later filed a formal answer to the allegations. In that, attorney April Laws argued that police detained Cottone based on an assault complaint "and multiple arrest warrants."

Regarding what happened at the station, Laws wrote that while officers "were attempting to relocate [Cottone] due to [her] hostile outbursts, noncompliance with lawful directives," her resistance caused her forehead to strike a wooden bench.

Laws, however, denied officers used excessive or unnecessary force.

Police Chief Eric Clifford and other city officials have declined to comment on the case.

A trial date has yet to be set.

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