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Embattled Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who was blamed for mishandling a case involving the death of a black man in police custody, was arraigned Monday on campaign finance charges.
Joseph Damelio, Warren’s attorney, entered a not guilty plea on her behalf in Monroe County (New York) Hall of Justice for one count each of a plot to defraud as well as a violation of election law for allegedly ignoring campaign contribution limits as the Democrat mayor ran in 2017 for a second term.
Damelio said that Warren did not break any laws and that she looks forward to fighting her charges.
“She welcomes the opportunity for the public to see whether the district attorney’s charges hold water,” he told reporters outside of the courthouse.
If convicted of the charges, which were filed by District Attorney Sandra Doorley, Warren could face up to four years in prison. She could also lose her law license and be removed from office, Syracuse.com reported.
For now, Damelio said, Warren has no plans to resign, and “her ability to govern has not been impaired.”
Also charged were Albert Jones Jr., Warren’s campaign treasurer, and Rosalind Brooks-Harris, who was treasurer for a political action committee supporting Warren. They, too, pleaded not guilty.
All three are accused of evading campaign finance limits between Nov. 6, 2013, and Nov. 7, 2017.
Prosecutors have not said how much money is involved, though Doorley noted Friday “it could be substantial.”
Warren was blasted by all sides earlier this month for mishandling the death of Daniel Prude, a black man who died of asphyxiation in late March after police officers placed a spit bag over his head, per department coronavirus policy.
Police encountered Prude naked in the middle of a street, according to bodycam footage. Officers cuffed him and pressed his head onto the street for several minutes as they awaited EMS. He died a week later.
A subsequent medical exam determined he died from“complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” as well as “excited delirium” and PCP intoxication, CBS News reported.
Following the release of the bodycam footage by Prude’s family, nights of riots and violence rocked Rochester, as demonstrators called for Warren and then-Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, both of whom are black, to resign.
Warren also suspended seven police officers involved in the Prude arrest pending an investigation.
Rochester Police Department union chief Michael Mazzeo told local media that the body cam footage released by Prude’s family was not a complete, accurate portrayal of events from the night of Daniel Prude’s arrest. He added that there is “a substantial amount of evidence” that supports officers’ actions.
He also said that the officers were following approved procedures.
“An officer doesn’t have the ability to go off-script,” Mazzeo noted. “They have to follow protocol and do what they are trained to do.”
For her part, Warren attributed Prude’s outcome to racism.
“We cannot continue to fail black lives this way,” she told a news conference. “We can’t improve our city or improve our nation until we face the reality, the undeniable truth: racism is alive and well in every system in America.
— Will Cleveland (@WillCleveland13) September 3, 2020
“The only way we are going to change institutional and structural and systematic racism in our city is to face it head-on,” she added.
Warren then accused Singletary of failing to fully inform her about the incident, saying she believed Prude had died from a drug overdose while in custody.
“I have addressed with Police Chief La’Ron Singletary how deeply disappointed I am in him personally and professionally for failing to fully and accurately inform me about what occurred to Mr. Prude,” she said.
Last month, Singletary and his command staff resigned after Warren attacked him.
“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” he said in a statement. “The events over the past week are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity.”
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