ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Michael Sippel, a now-former Rochester police officer, was sentenced to three years probation Monday, and will not serve any time in jail after being found guilty of assault in May.
Sippel was also sentenced to three years of an order of protection to Christopher Pate (victim of assault). Sippel will also pay a $250 court assessment penalty. His probation is scheduled to last until September 16, 2022, but it can be terminated earlier if he abides to all conditions. His attorney said he will be appealing this decision.
Sippel was found guilty of third degree assault back in May. Sippel’s termination from the Rochester Police Department was effective on the date of his conviction, according to Rochester Police Department officials. The RPD had no comment on Monday’s sentencing.
Reverend Lewis Stewart said he expected this sentence but he’s not happy with it.
“I think number one, he was given the benefit of the doubt, police officers always are. Number two, it was a light sentence, it was a lenient sentence, it was a slap on the wrist,” the Reverend said.
Attorney Paul Guerrieri, who is unaffiliated with the case, said this sentence is typical for this charge.
“Three years probation on an assault charge would be considered a relatively common disposition or sentence for a particular individual. I don’t think anybody’s getting away with just a slap on the wrist here,” said Guerrieri.
Before giving his sentence, Judge Thomas Morse said trauma from the past played a role in how both Michael Sippel and Christopher Pate reacted last May. He explained his thought process in deciding the guilty verdict and the sentence.
“The moment you took that yellow taser out of its holster you were way beyond, in a court’s view, what a reasonable police officer would’ve done,” Morse said. “I think part of what happened here was as a result of post-traumatic stress from the years in service,” he added, referencing Sippel’s years in the U.S. Army.
The victim of the assault, Christopher Pate, suffered serious injuries in the May 2018 incident, which was ultimately found to be a case of mistaken identity. During Sippel’s trial, Pate testified on the record about the assault he endured, which included fractures to his skull and jaw.
Another Rochester police officer at the incident, Spencer McAvoy, was suspended without pay after the attack, but a grand jury only indicted Sippel. McAvoy’s status is still suspended with pay pending the conclusion of internal departmental proceedings, according to RPD officials.
Last month, Pate filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Rochester, the RPD, Sippel, McAvoy and an officer Collins.
In regards to the civil lawsuit, City of Rochester officials released this statement at the time:
“The City will not comment on pending litigation in order to protect the interest of taxpayers.”
The full body cam footage of the incident released following the trial led to community leaders like Mayor Lovely Warren and Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary to speak out.
“I can tell you we don’t train that,” Singletary said in July. “It was conduct that was unbecoming. I think the process worked here, the officer was held accountable, one of the officers is no longer a member of the Rochester Police Department, so I think the system works. What we hope to happen is that this never happens again. Accountability is the word of the day moving forward — accountability.”
Mayor Warren released a statement Monday regarding the sentencing:
“There is no excuse for a resident of our city to be beaten for simply walking down the street. Mr. Sippel was convicted for this crime and fired for failing to serve our community in accordance with the law and the policies and procedures of our police department. I am grateful for the men and women that honorably protect our city each and every day. These officers are offered a variety of services to assist them if they need help to deal with the burdens of their position.”