Ithaca Common Council Issues Letter To District Attorney Over Controversial April Arrests

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Fallout continues from an April 6 incident on the Ithaca Commons, where a black man and woman were arrested after an altercation with a white man.

The Ithaca Common Council has sent a letter to Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten expressing concern over the arrests.

Ten police body camera and nearby security videos of the incident released by the City of Ithaca in April show police forcefully arresting Rose de Groat and Cadji Ferguson. A white man involved has not been arrested. An internal police investigation found no wrongdoing by the officers.

Neither Mayor Svante Myrick nor the Common Council have any authority over the District Attorney’s actions.

Even so, Council member Donna Fleming said the letter is necessary. “The need is it let the public know,” she said, “that we are deeply concerned about this issue.”

The letter comes after protests at a council meeting this month. It’s signed by the entire council. It expresses concern that the incident will have “undue long lasting negative effects” on de Groat and Ferguson. 

Celia Clarke/WSKG

Russell Rickford (right) and other demonstrators at the Ithaca Common Council meeting, July 3, 2019. (Celia Clarke/WSKG)

It supports the district attorney’s offer to drop felony charges against de Groat, the black woman.  In exchange, she’d agree to participate in a mediated restorative justice process with the officers involved in the arrests.

Common Council member Cynthia Brock said the D.A. told her what would happen in that process.

“Restorative justice in this case,” she said, “means a mediated conversation where the parties will have an opportunity to talk about their positions and their understanding of the situation.”

A public forum is being organized by the mayor. A date has not yet been announced.