DA, Police Chief Speak About April Incident On Ithaca Commons

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten spoke publicly for the first time about an incident in April on the Ithaca Commons on Thursday. He was joined by Ithaca Police Chief Dennis Nayor.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Ithaca Police Chief, Dennis Nayor, speaking at a press conference, October 10, 2019. (Celia Clarke/WSKG)

Both officials defended their actions by their departments following the altercation on the Ithaca Commons. 

Two people of color were forcefully arrested as the result of an altercation with an older man. The incident was captured on police body cameras and led to months of protests

One of the people, Rose deGroat, arrested had charges dismissed by a judge and the other, Cadji Ferguson, was found not guilty.

Nayor defended the internal investigation that found no police wrongdoing, but recommended more training for officers.

He said it was never his desire that either of the two young African Americans arrested have criminal records or go to prison.

Van Houten spent a good portion of his statement explaining why there were several changes to the charges against de Groat and why he ultimately decided to withdraw an offer he has proposed for a restorative justice process after which he would have dropped all charges against her.

The District Attorney also accused them both for lying about an alleged sexual assault or groping that was reported in the media. He said there was no assault because no one was ever touched that night. He also claimed that neither of them did anything to correct that.

“Now that the process is over, it’s unfortunate that neither of these young people ever took responsibility for their actions,” Van Houten said.

De Groat said no one in the D.A.’s office asked her about the whole story that night before she was given felony charges.

Both Van Houten and Nayor said they are willing to participate in a community forum about the incident.

Mayor Svante Myrick has previously said he would organized one, but nothing has been announced.