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OpinionColumnistsRandi F. Marshall

Why public may not see use-of-force report

Akbar Rogers stands with his lawyers Randy Zelin

Akbar Rogers stands with his lawyers Randy Zelin to his left and Stephen LaMagna to his right outside their office in Garden City on June 8, 2020. Credit: Raychel Brightman

An attorney for Akbar Rogers has told The Point that he would oppose the public release of a use-of-force report by an expert hired by Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas — the document she cited in her decision not to prosecute Freeport village police on brutality charges.

Bystander video showed as many as eight police officers repeatedly punched and kicked Rogers as he was pinned to the ground during the arrest in December.

But Rogers’ attorney, Randy Zelin, told The Point Monday that the report was “self-serving, biased and fundamentally flawed.”

“It’s little more than propaganda,” Zelin wrote in an email, saying it contained “substantive lies, mistakes and inaccuracies.”

In an interview, Zelin said he did not see a way to allow the report to be made public.

“It would be pointless for us to permit that [report] to infect the public and then leave us to scramble to say it’s a lie … and ask the public to unsee what they’ve read,” Zelin said. 

In response, Singas spokeswoman Miriam Sholder said in a statement to The Point that the expert, Philip Hayden, was an “exceptionally qualified out-of-state expert” who produced a “detailed and fact-based report drawing on law, training materials and policies.” Sholder said the DA’s office isn’t aware of any errors or inaccuracies in the report.

“These reckless allegations baselessly impugning the integrity of this independent expert’s report, while forcing it to be hidden from the public, do nothing to move forward the reforms to use of force policies that we have called for,” Sholder said. “Rather than grandstanding while pursuing a civil lawsuit, he should allow us to release this report to the public.”

Sholder said Singas is unable to release the report without Zelin’s OK, though she added that the report could be subpoenaed in a civil or criminal case.

While Singas dropped charges against Rogers related to the arrest, she is still pursuing a previous harassment charge after he allegedly pushed a pregnant woman to the floor — a charge that’s considered a violation. 

Zelin said Rogers is moving forward with an ongoing civil case against the officers. Advocates are also seeking the involvement of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James in the case.