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Attorney Leon Koziol seeking federal probe of alleged civil rights incidents in Utica
By DAN MINER Observer-Dispatch Posted Jan 12, 2010 @ 12:08 PM Last update Jan 13, 2010 @ 02:37 PM UTICA — Local attorney Leon Koziol is seeking a federal investigation into alleged civil rights abuses by city police officers and other city officials, he said at a news conference Tuesday. Flanked by two men who have recently commenced individual legal action against the city, Kozi¬l said he would submit a report to the U.S. Department of Justice on what he called a pattern of discrimination by city government. Both Stephen Patterson and Casey Stuckman were also at the news conference at Koziol's Genesee Street office. They described perceived harassment by police at businesses they run - the former Pistol Pete's bar on Nichols Street for Patterson and the former Marix Club on Park Avenue for Stuckman. “They are not following the law,” said Stuckman, who has also filed a notice of claim against the city for an Oct. 13 incident in which he was allegedly shot in the hand and then tackled by police as a possible suspect. “We all know there is currently a divide between the Utica Police Department and this community,” Stuckman said. City defends actions Neither city Mayor David Roefaro nor Police Chief Daniel LaBella would comment directly on Koziol's pending complaint. City Corporation Counsel Linda Sullivan-Fatata, however, said it had no merit and welcomed any federal investigation that might come. The situation has more to do with Patterson's and Stuckman's failure to follow the law, she said. “These two gentlemen refuse to follow the law in their business life, and that's basically what this comes down to,” she said. Koziol said a human rights forum scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Hotel Utica ballroom would give residents a chance to share their own experiences for his planned report. He said he has collected roughly a dozen testimonials thus far from local people of color. Koziol said he isn't focused on one specific type of violation, official or even city administration, but rather a number of instances over the years. The goal, he said, is for “even-handedness” in the way city laws are applied and to protect the rights of the city residents to “gainful employment.” At one point, he held up a picture of a battered Jamie DeGristina, who filed legal action against the city in January 2008 alleging she was punched, kicked and maced by officers as they tried to restrain her in a chair she believed was reserved for “men¬tally deranged” people. Koziol said that lawsuit is ongoing. Roefaro: Relations strong Although he would not com¬ment directly on the issue, Roefaro said during an O-D editorial board meeting Wednesday that his administration has strong relationships with black and other minority members of the community He mentioned a series of different black residents with whom he is in regular contact -- including Oneida County NAACP President Sam Jones and NIA Group of Utica Inc. chairwoman Kay Lanaux. Human rights forum Koziol is hosting a human rights forum where residents can give testimonials about possible civil rights abuses by the city of Utica. Koziol said he plans to send a report on discrimination to the U.S. Department of Justice. -- When: 7 p.m. Tuesday. -- Where: Ballroom, Hotel Utica, Lafayette Street.
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Attorney Leon Koziol seeking federal probe of alleged civil rights incident... http://www.uticaod.com/news/x1672005814/Koziol-seeking-federal-help...

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