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Body camera video played in trial of Rochester officer charged with assault

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) -- For the first time, we are getting a look at body camera video from the assault of a Rochester man who says he was attacked by police in a case of mistaken identity.

Opening statements began Wednesday for Officer Michael Sippel who faces one count of assault for the beating of Christopher Pate. Sippel waived his right to a jury trial, so a sole judge is hearing the case.

Last year, Pate said he was attacked by the two officers after being stopped on Fulton Avenue when officers believed he was a wanted man. The department said that even after Pate proved his identity, the officers persisted and struck Pate. Pate suffered fractures to his skull and jaw as a result of the brutality.

To add insult to injury, prosecutors said Pate was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. However, those charges were later dropped.

Both officers- Officer Sippel and his partner Officer Spenser McAvoy- were suspended without pay after the attack but a grand jury only indicted Sippel on a count of assault in a third degree- a misdemeanor. Following the indictment, advocates for Pate were upset, saying that both officers should have faced felony assault charges.

In court on Wednesday, opening statements were heard before moving to testimony from witnesses. One of those witnesses included Officer McAvoy, who tried to put the body camera video into context. He said himself and Sippel were out looking for a wanted man named James Barrett. McAvoy pointed out a man he thought was Barrett to Officer Sippel but McAvoy later found out that man was Christopher Pate. He asked Pate for ID three times and McAvoy said when Pate refused, McAvoy grabbed Pate's wrist. Pate then flashed an ID card, and things escalated from there.

Defense attorney Clark Zimmermann objected the showing of video from after the assault took place.

"I don't think it's relevant. The allegation is assault there's no allegation that anything happened after that point," Zimmermann said.

Assistant district attorney Gina Clark alluded to the body camera footage in her opening statements.

"You will see that after watching the video Michael Sippel abused the very power that the people of the city of Rochester entrusted him with," Clark said.

News 8 has posted footage from the courtroom as those clips were played. The court is not yet making those video files available to the public, but crews were allowed the record the video as it played on Wednesday.


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