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Rye City Council OKs $475K Settlement To End Police Brutality Lawsuit

Rye Mayor Joseph Sack, center, explained why he thought the city should settle a federal police brutality lawsuit. By a 7-0 vote, the City Council agreed on Wednesday night. Photo Credit: File photo
Andrew Caspi was 17 when this photo was taken after his arrest in December 2004 by Rye police. Photo Credit: Provided/Rye Police Department

RYE, N.Y. -- Rye City Council approved spending $475,000 on Wednesday to settle a federal lawsuit stemming from a 2004 incident in which a 17-year-old boy claimed he was beaten up by Rye police.

Rye Mayor Joseph Sack said the total cost of the settlement is expected to exceed $1.1 million once all the legal fees to defend three police officers and two RPD supervisors are tallied.

By a 7-0 vote, the City Council agreed to pay Andrew Caspi of Rye $475,000 -- of which $350,000 is expected to go to his lawyers, according to Sack.

Rye council members agreed with Sack that it was not worth risking an even costlier jury trial set to begin April 6.

The city’s $1 million in coverage by AIG Insurance offsets most of the settlement costs, Sack said, after a $50,000 deductible. Legal fees for the police officers and their supervisors are $645,000, Sack said, bringing the total cost to $1,120,000.

“It is in the best interest of the city to settle now,” said Councilman Terry McCartney, who is a trial lawyer. "You never know what a jury is going to do. There is a great deal of uncertainty."

Wednesday's settlement was hastened by the discovery three months ago of a police report written by Sgt. Alvin Ortiz four days after Caspi's arrest. Ortiz wrote that Officer Anthony Rosace had a history of verbal and physical aggression toward suspects, particularly Rye youths. "Some kid always ends up in the E/R,'' Ortiz wrote.

"The report was not favorable to the city,'' Sack acknowledged, saying it already had weakened the city's standing in federal court.

The City Council asked Rye Police Commissioner William Pease Jr. to reinforce policies and procedures for handling police records. Pease also was asked to review why no investigation was done after Caspi’s claims "so this failure to conduct an internal police investigation does not happen again,'' Sack said.

"No one's happy (that) no investigation happened,'' said Councilman Richard Slack.

On Dec. 12, 2004, Caspi, who was allegedly intoxicated at the time of his arrest, suffered severe facial and other injuries when police stopped him while he was walking to meet his father, Steven, in the Rye Middle School parking lot. Police accused Caspi of pushing one officer and trying to run from them.

Caspi said he was beaten after two of the officers, Anthony P. Rosace and Franco Compagnone, forced him to the ground. Criminal charges were dropped against Caspi, who later filed a federal lawsuit seeking $10 million.

In December 2014, Lt. Robert Falk found Sgt. Ortiz' report in his office. It prompted U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff to postpone the trial in February, and restore the City of Rye and two supervisors to the lawsuit.

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