Court upholds $1 million judgment in police brutality case

ROCHESTER — An appeals court has upheld a $1 million judgment awarded to a former Wolcott resident in a police brutality case that dates to 2001.

In a decision filed last Friday, the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department of state Supreme Court ruled in favor of David Reynolds. He now lives in Fulton, Oswego County.

Rochester-area attorney Charles Burkwit, who represents Reynolds, said his client was assaulted in December 2001 by state Trooper Thomas Connor after a traffic stop on Route 104 in Wolcott. According to published reports, Connor suspected Reynolds of driving on a suspended license and called a dispatcher, who said Reynolds’ license was suspended per DMV computer records.

Reynolds told Connor he had a temporary license, but Connor refused to let Reynolds produce it and forced Reynolds out of his car. Connor then handcuffed Reynolds, rammed his head several times into the trunk lid of his vehicle and placed him in a police car.

Connor later looked in Reynolds’ wallet and found the temporary license, after which he let Reynolds go.

Reynolds went to a local hospital for treatment and to the state police barracks in Wolcott, where photos were taken. Separate liability and damages trials were held in the Court of Claims in Syracuse.

In 2012, Judge Nicholas Midey Jr. awarded Reynolds $1 million — $225,000 for past pain and suffering, $475,000 for future pain and suffering and $300,000 for future medical and health care costs. That judgment was appealed by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Burkwit said he has been told by an assistant attorney general that the office will not pursue further appeals.

“We were pleased with the outcome and we’re glad the case is finally concluded and justice was served,” Burkwit said.

The press office of the Attorney General’s Office didn’t respond to a request seeking comment on the appeals court’s decision. With interest included, Burkwit said Reynolds is likely to get about $1.5 million from the state.

Midey ruled Connor used excessive force during the incident. Reynolds established he suffered a swollen, bloody and blackened eye; chronic and severe headaches; blurred vision in his left eye; dizziness; stuttering; and herniated discs that required surgery.

Burkwit said Reynolds, now 50, is still dealing with the effects of the assault.

Midey also found state police inadequately investigated Reynolds’ complaint of police brutality. According to published reports, Connor had a history of pulling Reynolds over in the hope of finding drugs in his car, and the two had run-ins going back to the 1990s.

Burkwit said Reynolds moved to the Oswego area because he was afraid Connor would retaliate against him.

Burkwit noted Connor is still a state trooper.