The ruling came in a ‘bench trial,’ which is decided by a judge, and not a jury.
Sippel and his partner, Officer Spenser McAvoy, attempted to stop Pate because he appeared to resemble a suspect. The incident escalated as Pate first refused to show identification, then showed an ID and repeatedly said he had done so.
Body-camera footage presented at the trial showed the physical confrontation, which resulted in Pate sustaining a broken bone in his face, among other injuries. Sippel was indicted by a Monroe County grand jury. Officer Spenser McAvoy, Sippel’s partner, was not indicted.
“Based on the credible direct and circumstantial evidence before this court, I find the People have dis-proven justification beyond a reasonable doubt and by the same standard proven Michael Sippel guilty . …” The incident was later said to be a case of mistaken identity
The Rev. Lewis Stewart of the United Christian Leadership Ministry, said the verdict “is a victory certainly for the community.”
However, he criticized Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley for failing to indict McAvoy, and he also said Sippel should have been indicted on a felony charge rather than a misdemeanor. “If it were a regular citizen that had assaulted someone and broke (a) bone, that person would have been up for a felony charge.”
Mayor Lovely Warren issued a statement saying that the verdict “sends a clear message that the City of Rochester and our Police Department does not, and will not, ever look the other way when our officers act inappropriately. Any allegations of misconduct will be fully investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted.”
She also said that, “the Rochester Police Department remains committed to building trust and respect with the community it serves. The actions that led to this trial are a reminder that we must rededicate ourselves to this goal. “
Rochester Interim Police Chief La'Ron Singletary released this statement:
“As Interim Chief, I respect the decision of the court. As Interim Chief, I am also limited as to what I can comment on in relation to the outcome of the criminal court case, as there are internal departmental proceedings involving Michael Sippel in which I am responsible for rendering the final disposition. With respect to the court’s decision, the internal departmental proceeding will resume as it had prior to the criminal court case commencing, during which Michael Sippel will remain on suspension from the Rochester Police Department."