Lawsuit Against Rye Police Is Headed for Trial

No one disputes that 17-year-old Andrew Caspi was walking north on Boston Post Road approaching Parsons Street at 1:15 in the morning of December 12, 2004. Everything after that is he said/they said.

Published February 19, 2015 4:10 PM
4 min read

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caspi-thNo one disputes that 17-year-old Andrew Caspi was walking north on Boston Post Road approaching Parsons Street at 1:15 in the morning of December 12, 2004. Everything after that is he said/they said.

By Mitch Silver

Caspi-Rye-PoliceNo one disputes that 17-year-old Andrew Caspi was walking north on Boston Post Road approaching Parsons Street at 1:15 in the morning of December 12, 2004. Everything after that is he said/they said.

Caspi maintains he was on his way to meet his waiting father in the Middle School parking lot for a lift home to Kirby Lane when Rye Police Officer Anthony Rosace accosted him. He says Rosace “asked various questions…unrelated to Plaintiff or his conduct, including but not limited to demanding the Plaintiff provide him the location of a party.” (Caspi contends that Rye Police were “hyper-vigilant” about teenage drinking after a standoff with dozens of youths that lasted for hours at a Fulton Avenue home the year before.)

He claims he told Rosace, in effect, “If I’m not under arrest, I’m leaving.” His original $10 million dollar lawsuit, filed October 18, 2007, states that Rosace refused to allow him to leave, and forced him to sit on the ground. Then Rye Police Officer Franco Campagnone joined in, compelling Caspi to stay where he was, saying, “Do you think I have nothing better to do tonight?”

The plaintiff replied, in substance, “I know you have nothing better to do tonight. You’re a Rye City cop.” To which Campagnone said, “I can kick your ass tonight.”

The complaint further alleges Rosace, Campagnone and a third officer, Michael Anfuso, “unnecessarily, maliciously, unreasonably, excessively and intentionally…set upon, beat, struck, assaulted, punched and/or kicked Plaintiff repeatedly…Plaintiff was rendered unconscious.”

A photo taken soon afterwards shows a bloody teenager with injuries that include a broken sinus bone. Caspi was charged with Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest, and a misdemeanor Assault in the Third Degree. A month later, the misdemeanor charge was raised to a 2nd Degree Assault felony, and Obstructing Governmental Administration was added. All charges were eventually dismissed.

In their 2007 response to the suit, which includes Rosace, Campagnone, Anfuso, other “John Doe” officers, Police Lieutenant Joseph Verille, then-Police Commissioner William Connors, the Police Department as a whole, and the City of Rye, the Defendants denied “each and every allegation…any injuries or damages were caused or contributed to by the negligence, culpable conduct, assumption of risk, or fault of the Plaintiff.”

At the time the officers gave this version of the incident: a call to the Police Department said a young man was carrying a tree branch and waving it threateningly at passing motorists on Boston Post Road. When they confronted Caspi, they believed he’d been drinking at an underage party. He shoved Campagnone and ran across the road. Campagnone and Rosace caught him, pushed him to the ground, and cuffed him.

In the years that followed, the suit made its tortuous way through the legal system, with hearings, motions, discovery, conferences, more conferences, oral argument…the works. Then, mysteriously, a ten-year-old report by another police officer suddenly materialized two months ago.

Rye Police Lieutenant Robert Falk recently found the document written four days after the incident in December 2004 by retired Sgt. Alvin Ortiz, who was the supervisor on duty that night. Lt. Falk says he found the unopened letter, addressed to himself and marked “personal and confidential”, in a file while moving offices.

In it, Ortiz wrote that he wished he’d arrived on the scene earlier “to save (Caspi) from getting hurt.” He continued, “What disturbs me is that once again a young man has been hurt after having contact with P.O. Rosace…There should not be a cloud of suspicion hanging over the department every time Rosace has contact with youngsters and some kid always ends up in the ER. This officer has got anger issues that are quite apparent to most people on this job but no one wants to talk about it.”

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff had planned to begin the long-awaited trial earlier this month, but he postponed it until early April. Saying the Ortiz letter was “one of the strongest memoranda I’ve ever seen in this kind of context,” Rakoff went on to say, “Some might characterize (it) as the smoking gun.”

Ortiz, who now works for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, was flown up and deposed this month. Attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendants, as well as Caspi himself, declined to comment for this article.

 

 

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