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Former RPD chief refuses to answer subpoenas in City Council probe of Prude death 

Former Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary has refused to cooperate in the City Council-appointed independent investigation into the death of Daniel Prude, the lead investigator, Andrew Celli, said Monday.

Celli, a Manhattan-based lawyer, said that Singletary declined to respond to a subpoena seeking information and speak to investigators.

“Former Chief Singletary, through his attorney, has conveyed that he is unwilling to provide documents or give testimony in response to the Council’s subpoena,” Celli said in a statement, adding that the probe would move forward and that investigators were searching for ways to compel Singletary to respond.

“Chief Singletary’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation, while very unfortunate, will not materially impede our progress,” Celli said. “Even as we actively consider remedies for such non-compliance, including, but not limited to, court enforcement, our work will continue, drawing on the many other sources of documentary evidence and testimony that are available to us.”

click to enlarge Former Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • Former Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary.
Celli described that subpoenas of public officials, including Mayor Lovely Warren and City Council President Loretta Scott, as well as other issued to the Rochester Police Department and city Law Department have yielded what he called “a significant” cache of documents.

Singletary, he said, is the first to decline to respond. His subpoena was dated Oct. 5.

The former chief was fired by Warren on Sept. 14, after previously announcing his resignation, amid a shakeup in the RPD command structure that saw a string of demotions and departures following the release of video of Daniel Prude’s arrest.

A series of email exchanges between Celli and Singletary’s lawyer, Michael Tallon, that Celli released show Tallon questioning the legal grounds on which Singletary was subpoenaed. He also said that, under the circumstances, officials in the Warren administration, could not be trusted to act ethically.

“I believe that back channel communications that compromise confidentiality and integrity are rife in many organizations, and especially in those under severe stress,” Tallon wrote, in a letter dated Oct. 19. “That describes this administration now.”

Celli responded the following day, arguing Singletary was attempting to obstruct the investigation.

“The position you (Tallon) assert on behalf of former Chief Singletary is unacceptable,” Celli wrote. “Your client has been served with a subpoena validly issued by the Rochester City Council, compliance with which is required, not optional. Former Chief Singletary’s refusal to comply with the subpoena, as reflected in your letter and the correspondence to date, is an effort to impede the Investigation.”

Celli was appointed to lead the independent investigation on Sept. 18 and granted the ability to subpoena information through the City Council. At the beginning of the investigation, he said the primary goal was to determine whether officials in the Police Department and at City Hall conspired to cover up the circumstances of Prude’s death.

His firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, also represents City Council in the current appeal to preserve the Police Accountability Board’s disciplinary power.

So far in the investigation, Celli said hundreds of thousands of emails, cell phone records, and other documents have been obtained. The first depositions are slated to begin in November.
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Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at gino@rochester-citynews.com or (585) 775-9692.

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