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Sandra Doorley apologizes for berating officer, will refer traffic stop to Onondaga County DA

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley is seen in this frame grab from a video statement issued early Monday, April 29, 2024.
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley is seen in this frame grab from a video statement issued early Monday, April 29, 2024.

Monroe Country District Attorney Sandra Doorley issued a video statement early Monday, apologizing for her actions after being caught speeding in Webster last week.

"Last Monday, I failed you and the standards that I hold myself to," she said in the video. "And for that, I am so sorry. What I did was wrong, no excuses."

After being caught speeding, Doorley continued a mile to her home while an officer followed with lights and sirens. The refusal to stop was an arrestable offense, police said.

But Doorley chastised the officer, asked the Webster police chief to intervene, and repeatedly noted she was the DA and suggested the officer should have known who she was when she pulled into her driveway.

Police ultimately ticketed her for speeding and she paid the ticket a day later.

Over the weekend, Gov. Kathy Hochul referred Doorley to the state Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct, saying the the DA had “undermined her ability to hold others accountable.” And the Rochester City Council asked state Attorney General Letitia James to review the matter, questioning whether Doorley should remain in office and suggesting she had lost public trust.

Doorley said in the video that she takes full responsibility for her actions.

"I fell short of the values I've held for my entire 33-year career," she said. "I didn't treat this officer with the respect that he deserved. All police officers deserve respect. I am truly and sincerely sorry."

Monday's video was the first statement from Doorley since a statement released on Thursday, taking responsibility but not addressing her conduct. WXXI News obtained the officers’ body worn camera video a day later.

Release of the body worn camera video came less than 24 hours after Doorley released a statement saying nobody was above the law.

Doorley said in the video that she would hold herself accountable by referring the incident to an unspecified district attorney from another county for review, self-reporting it to the grievance committee, and taking ethics training. She also said she would cooperate with investigations.

"I've been humbled by my own stupidity, and I'm fully to blame," she said.

The outside review will be done by Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, who is in his ninth term in office. He currently also heads up the National District Attorneys Association's Committee on Fair & Ethical Administration of Justice, and led the development of a state-level ethical guideline for prosecutors in 2021, when Doorley led the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, DAASNY.

The state commission, meanwhile, is just getting started.

The agency only appointed its first administrator in February, and is in the process of hiring staff and formalizing its rules and procedures.

It has the ability to hold hearings, subpoena witnesses and take other action “to determine whether any prosecutorial conduct violates state law or court rules.” Its findings can be made public and result in recommendations regarding sanctions.

Disciplinary action short of removal would go to the grievance committee — which could get complicated in this case, given the dual-tract reviews. Under state law, only the governor can remove a district attorney.

Notably, when the state revived the commission three years ago, Doorley opposed the legislation, writing as president of DAASNY that there should be consistency "with the fair administration of justice as it pertain to allegations of misconduct against all attorneys, not just prosecutors." She also raised concern that the commission could be used to silence a prosecutor investigating criminal activity by the politically powerful.

DAASNY historically has favored the route Doorley appears to be taking. Attorney Grievance Committees exist within each of the state's four appellate-level courts, addressing claims of misconduct against all attorneys, not just prosecutors. Those committee decisions, though, are mostly confidential.

In a statement Sunday, Hochul said:

"District Attorneys are responsible for prosecuting criminal and traffic offenses, and must perform their duties with the highest ethical standards. Earlier today, I referred the Monroe County District Attorney to the Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct following the release of police bodycam footage showing her claiming she is above the law, attempting to use her public office to evade responsibility, and acting unprofessionally towards a police officer simply trying to do his job. In doing so, she was acting in contravention of her responsibility as a District Attorney and undermined her ability to hold others accountable for violating the law. We are deeply grateful to the men and women of law enforcement who put on a uniform each day to protect the safety of all New Yorkers."

Hochul and all nine members of City Council are Democrats. Doorley was, too, until changing her party enrollment to Republican in 2015. Fitzpatrick also is a Republican.

Criticism thus far has come from the left and focused on her conduct. A group of about two dozen protesters, including Assemblymember Demond Meeks, D-Rochester, rallied outside Doorley’s office Monday morning on South Fitzhugh Street calling for her resignation. The group’s organizers, the Community Justice Initiative and SAVE Rochester, were prominent during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and 2021.

“We’re here to let us send a message to her that we’re not playing,” said Mikey Johnson, an organizer with SAVE Rochester. “That she can either resign, or we’re going to advocate for a special prosecutor to go ahead and take care of this matter.”

Prominent Republicans, who had been silent over the weekend, on Monday began coming to her aid.

Steve Brew, leader of the Monroe County Legislature's Republican Conference, issued the following statement:

"The Webster Police Department did their job full-stop; we thank them for their service on this and every day and reiterate that all members of law enforcement must be treated with respect regardless of circumstance.

"We will not allow a moment of clearly expressed regret to overshadow decades of dedication to our community, law enforcement, and the rule of law — the Republican Conference continues to support our District Attorney Sandra Doorley.

"We welcome Democrats' newfound support for our members of law enforcement and hope it will continue into the future. If Democrats in this County were as outspoken about carjackings, robberies, and murders as they are now about a traffic stop, perhaps we'd all be in a better and safer place."

And Monroe County GOP Chairman Patrick Reilly tweeted, "I fully support our Monroe County DA Sandra Doorley."

You can watch the full video here. (The video contains strong language. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.