Officers plead not guilty in Randy Cox case, the man paralyzed in police custody

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The five New Haven, Connecticut, police officers charged in the case of Richard "Randy" Cox, a Black man who was paralyzed while being transported in custody, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday during an arraignment hearing.

The officers -- Sgt. Betsy Segui and officers Oscar Diaz, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera -- were each charged in November 2022 with one count of second-degree reckless endangerment and one count of cruelty to persons.

Both charges are misdemeanors and the officers were each released on a $25,000 bond.

Cox, who is now paralyzed from the neck down, did not appear in court for the arraignment because to do so was "logistically too difficult," his attorney Jack O'Donnell said.

"Randy is very disappointed that these officers were only charged with misdemeanors," O'Donnell told ABC News in a phone interview on Tuesday.

ABC News reached out to the attorneys representing Diaz, Pressley, Lavandier and Rivera for further comment.

Gregory Cerittelli, the attorney for the fifth officer Sgt. Betsy Segui, confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that Segui will plead not guilty.

"The job of a police officer has become increasingly more difficult in recent years," Cerittelli told ABC News. "Police officers are often required to utilize their best judgment in assessing situations, and are now being judged with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Our Supreme Court has consistently held this is not the appropriate standard."

The judge set the next pre-trial hearing for Feb. 23.

The charges filed by New Haven's state attorney John P. Doyle, Jr. against the officers stemmed from a June 19, 2022 incident when the officers arrested Cox for criminal possession of a firearm and breach of peace. Surveillance video shows the officers then placed Cox in the back of a police van without seatbelts. During an abrupt stop, Cox was thrown headfirst into the back wall of the van.

Though Cox repeatedly asked for help, saying he couldn't move, the officers did not immediately render him medical aid and allegedly assumed he was drunk when they arrived at the police station.

The video footage also shows the officers dragging Cox by his feet and throwing him into a wheelchair, which his lawyers said could have exacerbated his already life-threatening injuries.

"[Randy] is essentially quadriplegic. He's in a rehab facility. He can't feed himself, he can't clean himself, he can't relieve himself without assistance," O'Donnell said on Tuesday.

"Randy is going to be left with permanent injuries. The least that can happen to these officers is that they have permanent records," he added.

Cox filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against the city of New Haven and New Haven Police Department officers in September 2022.

In October 2022, all charges against Cox were dropped, according to the New Haven Superior Court clerk's office.

The five officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation, a spokesman for the New Haven Police Department told ABC News on Tuesday.

"The State's Attorney's Office is handling the criminal aspect of the investigation and the New Haven Police Department Office of Internal Affairs is conducting an internal investigation," the spokesman said.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in July 2022 that it is closely monitoring the investigation.

"All suspects taken into police custody must be afforded timely and appropriate medical care in the event of an emergency," said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery in a statement. "If federal action is warranted, the Justice Department will pursue every available avenue to the full extent of the law."

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