Police officers arrested after van prisoner was paralyzed seek program to have charges erased

Sep 13, 2023, 2:07 PM

FILE - In this image taken from police body camera video provided by New Haven Police, Richard "Ran...

FILE - In this image taken from police body camera video provided by New Haven Police, Richard "Randy" Cox, center, is pulled from the back of a police van and placed in a wheelchair after being detained by New Haven Police on June 19, 2022, in New Haven, Conn. The five former Connecticut police officers who were arrested for allegedly mistreating Cox, then a prisoner, after he was paralyzed in the back of a police van, applied Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, for a probation program that could result in the charges being erased.(New Haven Police via AP, File)

(New Haven Police via AP, File)

Five former Connecticut police officers who were arrested for allegedly mistreating a prisoner after he was paralyzed in the back of a police van applied Wednesday for a probation program that could result in the charges being erased.

The applications further frustrated Richard “Randy” Cox’s supporters, who have criticized prosecutors for only charging the five former New Haven officers with misdemeanors — negligent cruelty to persons and reckless endangerment.

A judge in New Haven scheduled a Nov. 1 hearing to determine whether the ex-officers are eligible for accelerated rehabilitation, a program generally for first-time offenders that can erase minor criminal charges if defendants successfully complete a period of probation.

“I’m praying the judge does the right thing — hold them accountable to the full extent of the law and send a strong message to police officers … that there is zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” said Scot X. Esdaile, president of the NAACP’s Connecticut State Conference.

Cox, now 37, was left paralyzed from the chest down June 19, 2022, when a police van he was riding in braked hard to avoid a collision with a car, sending him head-first into a metal partition. His hands were cuffed behind his back and the van had no seat belts. Cox had been arrested on charges of threatening a woman with a gun, which were later dismissed.

“I can’t move. I’m going to die like this. Please, please, please help me,” Cox said minutes after the crash, according to police video.

Once at the police station, officers mocked Cox and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries, according to surveillance and body-worn camera footage. Officers dragged Cox by his feet out of the van and placed him in a holding cell prior to his eventual transfer to a hospital.

In June, Cox and the city of New Haven agreed to settle his lawsuit against the city and the officers for $45 million, which Cox’s lawyers called the largest-ever settlement of a police misconduct case.

The case drew outrage from civil rights advocates such as the NAACP, along with comparisons to the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. It also led to reforms at the New Haven police department as well as a statewide seat belt requirement for prisoners.

Cox is Black, while all five officers who were arrested are Black or Hispanic. Gray, who also was Black, died in 2015 after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a city police van.

The five New Haven officers — Oscar Diaz, Betsy Segui, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera — have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Diaz was the van driver, while Segui was a supervisor in the police lockup.

All the officers were fired except for Pressley, who avoided discipline by retiring in January.

Segui’s lawyer, Gregory Cerritelli, said Wednesday that he expected her application for accelerated rehabilitation to be approved.

“These are two misdemeanors, so I can’t believe a judge under these circumstances wouldn’t grant her the benefit of that program,” he said, adding “the crime is not of a serious nature.”

State prosecutors declined to comment on the applications.

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Police officers arrested after van prisoner was paralyzed seek program to have charges erased