ITHACA, N.Y. — The City of Ithaca has settled a federal police brutality lawsuit filed by a former Ithaca College student after his arrest in November 2016. According to court documents, police pepper-sprayed the student while he was on the ground and handcuffed.
The student, Kyle Goldstein, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court Northern District in April 2019 alleging that two Ithaca Police Department officers used excessive force while illegally detaining him, as well as falsifying their reports to support their account, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the City of Ithaca, the two officers, the department and former IPD Chief John Barber.
In the 65-page complaint, the events of Nov. 17, 2016, are laid out by Goldstein’s attorney Ed Kopko. The suit alleges that officers entered Goldstein’s apartment without first talking to a resident or obtaining a warrant, handcuffed him without cause and threw him to the ground and pepper-sprayed him while he was handcuffed. In doing all this, the lawsuit states, the officer used excessive force and his partner violated Goldstein’s civil rights by failing to intervene.
The suit also alleged that Officers Jacob Allard and Daniel Bechtold falsified their field reports to justify their actions afterward.
According to Goldstein’s attorney Ed Kopko, his client sustained permanent damage to his eye due to the incident. While the terms of the settlement limit what he can say publicly, he is urging the public to hold IPD and the city accountable.
“This claim was recently settled, but the City of Ithaca insisted upon a confidentiality provision that deprives the public of the full facts of this police misconduct, and any steps taken by the City to properly train its officers,” said Kopko in an email Tuesday. “Although I am constrained from disclosing the terms of the settlement, the people of Ithaca are not so constrained from discovering them, and they should collectively demand that the City publicly release all of the terms of the settlement, together with a statement of the training or discipline imposed upon the IPD officers who used excessive force to make an illegal arrest.”
The City of Ithaca, Police Chief Dennis Nayor and Ed Kopko, Goldstein’s attorney, all declined to speak to the specifics of the settlement due to its terms, but a source close to the deal confirmed it was in the “hundreds of thousands.”
The Voice has filed Freedom of Information request for legal documents related to the case. That request is pending.
After the initial incident, Goldstein, who was 21 at the time, was charged with obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest, according to Officer Allard’s statement on Nov. 28, 2016. The officer later amended his statement and changed the charge to resisting arrest, according to the original complaint.
“It is crucially important to us that whenever possible, IPD create positive interactions with the public—a metric by which most of our hard-working officers succeed every single day,” said Mayor Svante Myrick. “If we miss that mark, we are committed to learning from all concerns voiced. While the city’s insurance carrier is in the process of resolving this lawsuit, that will in no way diminish our drive at the IPD for continuous training and improvement.”
Current Chief of Police Dennis Nayor, said he could not delve into the specifics of the settlement, but echoed the mayor’s hope this incident could be used as a learning opportunity.
“If anything ever does come out of litigation that we can use as a training opportunity, we will,” said Nayor. “I have to look at all the facts, this happened before I came on. But any lawsuit, I’ll always look at it to see what we can take from it.”
The Ithaca Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents IPD officers, did not respond to request for comment on this story.
Featured image: Image from Goldstein complaint