Prude family attorneys say city withheld paperwork from them

Oct 15, 2020

From left, Elliot Shields, an attorney for Daniel Prude's estate, comforts Joe Prude last month after speaking to the press about his brother's death after being restrained by Rochester police.
Credit Max Schulte/WXXI News file photo

An attorney representing the family of Daniel Prude will argue in state court Thursday that the city of Rochester withheld some records that he and his co-counsel requested regarding Prude’s death at the hands of Rochester police officers.

Elliot Shields filed a complaint in state Supreme Court on Sept. 21 alleging that the city did not fully respond to an April 3 open records request for all communications and body-worn camera footage related to Prude’s fatal encounter with police on March 23.

He was scheduled to make his argument before Justice James Piampiano at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

The complaint stated that city representatives told the Prude family’s attorneys that there were no communications between any Rochester Police Department officers or city employees related to the incident. But when Deputy Mayor James Smith released his 323-page administrative review of the incident on Sept. 14, it contained “numerous” records, including e-mails between police and city officials, that should have been produced under the records request, the complaint argued.

“The Smith Memo makes clear that there are additional responsive records that were not produced to Petitioner,” read the complaint.

In addition to seeking any documents to which they are entitled, the lawsuit also seeks reimbursement from the city for attorney fees and costs.

Shields and attorney Don Thompson are also representing the Prude family in a federal lawsuit against the city of Rochester. That lawsuit alleges that three RPD officers used excessive force in restraining Prude, who was naked and had his hands cuffed behind his back. It further alleges that the officers held Prude down under the full weight of their bodies for more than two minutes until he stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest.

The Monroe County medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide due to “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint due to excited delirium due to acute phencyclidine intoxication,” an indication that Prude might have been high on PCP.

The federal lawsuit asks the court to order reforms in the Rochester Police Department and to appoint a federal monitor for those changes. The family is also seeking unspecified damages.

Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.