The following report chronicles multiple civil lawsuits and news stories related to incidents of racism, brutality, civil rights violations, and other misconduct by officers from the Geneva Police Department between 2009 until 2020.
All of the civil lawsuits in this report resulted in settlements between the City of Geneva and the plaintiffs, although the amounts of any monetary settlements are not disclosed.
In some cases, the names of the plaintiffs have been redacted from the attached court documents, and those names have been replaced with pseudonyms in the accompanying summaries.
The names of officers who are currently employed by the Geneva Police Department (as of June 26, 2020) are highlighted in bold.
*Warning: This article includes graphic language and descriptions related to police racism, violence and abuse.*
October 13, 2009
A civil action was filed by a Geneva woman (“Paula”) against the City of Geneva, GPD, Police Chief Frank Pane, and officers Steven Vine, Matthew Colton, Randall Grenier, and Richard Regan.
Paula said that, on or around June 15, 2008, Regan and other officers had entered her home without consent, questioned her sons and demanded their identification, made verbal threats, and mocked the family’s Puerto Rican heritage. After the incident, Paula filed a complaint against the officers.
While this complaint was pending, on August 21, 2008, Vine and Colton stopped Paula’s 17-year-old son on the street and arrested him. Paula’s 14-year-old son (“David”) arrived, and his older brother asked David to take home his bag of groceries. According to the civil action:
“Defendant Vine ordered the boys not to speak Spanish and when (David) stated that he did not know much English, Defendant Vine became angry and stated in sum and substance: “Don’t speak Spanish, speak English. This is America”. Defendant Vine grabbed (David) by the throat and pushed him against the police car and began to strike him repeatedly with a police baton.
Thereafter, Defendant Vine and another Geneva officer continued to beat and then unlawfully arrested the 14 year old (David) and placed him in handcuffs in the police car. (David) was thereafter transported to the Geneva Police station where he was detained until being released without charges later that night.”
Later that evening, Paula said Detective Colton knocked loudly on her door and asked to come inside to “look for someone.” When Paula refused to allow the officer into her home, she said he pushed the door, hitting her in the face and entering her home.
Paula said Vine and Grenier arrived shortly thereafter and helped Colton conduct “a warrantless and unlawful search.” According to the civil action:
“(The officers) approached (Paula’s) 16 year old son, who was sitting on the couch. Defendants put a gun to (Paula’)s son’s head and threatened to kill him. (Paula’s) 16 year old son was then manhandled and struck by the defendants, taken off the couch and told at gunpoint that if he moved he was dead.
(Paula), seeing her 16 year old son being assaulted and threatened with a gun tried to place herself between the defendant Grenier‘s drawn handgun and her son, telling the Defendant Grenier that he would have to shoot her first. Defendants forcibly threw (Paula) to the floor of her living room and twisted her arms behind her back applying pressure and the weight of both defendants on her back.”
Defendants repeatedly denied (Paula)’s request to use the bathroom and replied to her that if she needed to use the bathroom, she could go on the floor. (Paula) was forced to urinate on herself on her living room floor. Defendant Grenier then slammed his knee into the back of (Paula), and proceeded to beat her around the head and neck, torso, legs and face. The Defendants yanked on (Paula’s) handcuffed wrists and tried to violently pull her up and yelled: “Stand up, you’re resisting arrest.”
Due to the malicious treatment of (Paula) by Defendants Grenier and other offices present, (Paula) was caused physical injuries including back sprains, radiculopathy, hematoma, abrasions, and bruising to her face, head and torso, and suffered deep psychological emotional humiliation.”
On May 25, 2011, a motion was filed by Paula’s lawyer for a settlement of $20,000. Paula and her sons had moved back to Puerto Rico, making it difficult for Paula to continue attending court dates.
On July 12, 2011, a “stipulation of discontinuance” was filed and the attorneys on both sides agreed to end the case after one year and nine months.
November 13, 2010
Aisha McCoy was walking with her two-year old child on Tillman Street near Exchange Street when she was surrounded and searched by Geneva Police Department officers Carmen Reale, Randall Grenier, David Felice and Mark Cirone. Aisha, a young mother with no criminal record, was told to leave the scene. While she was inside a nearby store with her child, the officers arrested and handcuffed her boyfriend.
Upon leaving the store, Aisha began walking and talking on her cell phone with her father while holding her child. Reale got on his police bicycle, chased down McCoy, tackled her from behind, and began punching her, breaking her eye socket. A witness testified that when Reale tackled McCoy, the child was thrown to the ground and then picked up by a passerby. Reale injured his hand punching McCoy and would end up on paid medical leave due to the injury.
McCoy was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
When McCoy was arrested, no one asked her for her full name, and a press release from the Geneva Police Department announcing the arrest referred to her as simply “Aisha.” In addition, she was labeled on the police report as “black,” although she is part Brazilian, part Puerto Rican and part Caucasian.
Aisha McCoy repeatedly turned down offers of plea deals during her trial. Eventually, McCoy would be convicted and sentenced to eight weekends in jail and required to wear an ankle monitor.
McCoy would later file a civil action against several Geneva Police Department officers and the City of Geneva.
May 20, 2011
Around 10:30pm on May 20, 2011, Geneva Police officers stopped a vehicle with three passengers near the intersection of N. Exchange Street and Buffalo Street. The police were seeking to speak with the passenger in the back seat, an unarmed 34-year-old black man named William “Corey” Jackson, about a robbery that had occurred earlier that day.
Officers Brian Choffin, Steven Vine, Randall Grenier, Nicholas Bielowicz, and Carmen Reale “had blockaded the roadway and stopped the vehicle pursuant to a pre-existing plan.”
Police ordered all three passengers from the car, and the two-front seat passengers exited the vehicle, but Jackson remained in the back seat, “surrounded by a cadre of police officers who were heavily armed, with semi automatic weapons and assault rifles.”
Sgt. Carmen “Scott” Reale fired a shot through the vehicle’s rear window, hitting Corey Jackson in the head. Two days later, on May 22, Corey Jackson died at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
Reale claimed to have seen Jackson pointing an object that he thought was a gun toward the officers. Jackson was found with two cell phones and a knife, but no gun.
According to documents from Jackson’s lawyer related to the 2011 civil action:
“…No other officer saw (William Jackson) do anything threatening, and more than one officer said that he therefore initially thought William Jackson had committed suicide since they saw no reason for a police shooting. Officer Reale has a documented history of using excessive force involving minorities. This officer also had a specific history with William Jackson, having been involved with the earlier arrest of him.
One of the officers on the scene of this shooting reported that Reale had told him before the shooting that William Jackson was the closest person he ever came to shooting, allegedly because he would not take his hands out of his pockets. Officer Reale was not even supposed to be on duty the night of the shooting. His doctor had not released him to return to work yet following the injury to the tendons in his hand from when he punched a young mother in the face, severely fracturing her facial bones. The work shift that Reale was on had ended earlier that day, but he stayed out in plain clothes in an unmarked car to lay in wait for William Jackson with the other officers.”
In early July 2011, an Ontario County grand jury ruled that the use of deadly force was justified in the killing of Corey Jackson.
Reale kept his job with the Geneva Police Department for the next 2 1/2 years after killing Corey Jackson, spending much of that time on paid leave.
October 31, 2011
Aisha McCoy filed a civil action against the City of Geneva, Police Chief Frank Pane, and officers Carmen Reale, Randall Grenier, David Felice and Mark Cirone.
The civil action reads, in part:
“Upon leaving the store, plaintiff was chased and tackled to the ground from behind by defendant Carmen Reale while acting in concert with the other named defendants. Defendant Carmen Reale struck plaintiff in the face and right eye with great force and without just cause thereby causing serious bodily injuries to plaintiff. The defendants then arrested plaintiff without probable cause and unlawfully jailed her for a substantial time until her release.
12. During the course of defendant officers’ activities, the defendants made verbal threats and used indignant language towards Plaintiff.
13. Due to the malicious and unlawful treatment of Plaintiff by Defendant Sgt. Reale and Police Officers Randall Grenier, David Felice, and Mark Cirone, Plaintiff Aisha McCoy suffered physical and emotional injuries including facial fractures, bruising to her face and right eye, as well as past and future conscious pain and suffering.”
On January 26, 2016, more than five years after Reale attacked Aisha McCoy in broad daylight in downtown Geneva, and more than four years after the civil action was filed by McCoy, a settlement in the case was reached.
June 29, 2012
The Estate of Corey Jackson brought a civil action against Carmen Reale, John Doe Officer 1, John Doe Officer 2, Police Chief Frank Pane, and the City of Geneva for the killing of Corey Jackson.
In 2014, a notice of motion revealed the names of the five other officers besides Reale who were involved and on the scene the night Corey Jackson was killed (Brian Choffin, Steven Vine, Randall Grenier, Nicholas Bielowicz, and Robert Peters).
During the civil action, additional information was learned about Reale’s history, including “a pending federal lawsuit involving Sergeant Reale who is alleged to have broken the wrist of a police informant during a staged arrest in 2004”
In 2013, Jackson’s family was offered a $40,000 settlement, which was declined.
In August 2016, a settlement conference was held.
On December 6, 2016, five and a half years after the killing of Corey Jackson and four and a half years after the civil action was filed, attorneys for both sides agreed to file a “stipulation of discontinuance” to end the case.
September 26, 2013
A civil action was filed by a Geneva woman (“Renee”) against the City of Geneva, GPD, Police Chief Jeff Trickler, and officers Randall Grenier and Nicholas Bielowicz.
On or about August 8, 2012, Renee says she arrived home after shopping when Grenier and Bielowicz showed up and “unlawfully entered her home,” forced her against a wall, “laid their hands on her body and searched her,” before arresting and jailing her “without probable cause.”
Renee states that Grenier and Bielowicz twisted her arms and wrists, and “made verbal threats and used indignant and mocking language” towards her in order “humiliate” her.
The civil action further states that Renee “suffered serious injuries including to her arms, wrists, shoulders
and back, which required immediate emergency care and included blunt force trauma injuries” that would “incur various medical expenses.”
On January 21, 2015, a Mediation session was held, and Renee agreed to “provide authorizations for medical records and Workers Compensation file ASAP.”
In a letter dated July 21, 2015, the attorney for Grenier and Bielowicz stated that a “tentative settlement” had been reached, and that the law firm would be “working out the lien issues of Medicare and Medicaid.”
On November 2, 2015, more than three years after the incident and more than two years after Paula filed the civil action, a settlement was reached and the case ended.
July 12, 2014
An investigative report entitled “Reporting Rape, And Wishing She Hadn’t” is published in the New York Times. The piece, by reporter Walt Bogdanich, describes the alleged assault of an 18-year-old Hobart William Smith freshman, and the aftermath of the incident.
“Anna, in her first weeks of college last September, reported being assaulted by two football players in a room at a frat party, where they’d all been drinking. A friend of hers (also a football player) said he later saw one of the men rape her while she was bent over a pool table in the back of a dance hall, while a handful of other students looked on and laughed. Anna’s blood alcohol level tested at twice what counts as legally drunk and a rape exam showed “blunt force trauma” from repeated intercourse.
Hobart and William Smith cleared the football players in just 12 days.”
The New York Times article addressed the response to Anna’s complaint by Hobart and William Smith, the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office, and the Geneva Police Department, specifically an “error-filled report” by Geneva Police Detective Brian Choffin that was sent to the prosecutor.
“Detective Choffin mischaracterized witness statements, put the words of one student in the mouth of another, and stated that he “never saw any discrepancies or alterations” in what the two football players told the authorities, even though they had initially lied about having sexual contact with their accuser. And while Anna’s blood-alcohol tests had been done many hours after she last had a drink, he also stated unequivocally that her level “would not make a person impaired to the point of blacking out.”
The detective defended his report, which disputed much of Anna’s account, calling it “thorough and based on facts.””
February 2, 2017
During a command staff meeting at the Geneva Police Department, Jack Montesanto got into an argument with Chief Jeff Trickler. Shortly thereafter, Montesanto was put on paid suspension for the next 16 months.
From February 2017 through June 2018, Montesanto was paid more than $128,000 while on suspension.
The internal affairs investigators for the Geneva Police at that time were Mike Passalacqua and Matt Valenti.
May 17, 2017
Geneva Police responded to a domestic violence incident involving a Geneva Police officer and his female victim on the evening of May 17, 2017, after receiving a 911 call. The victim and witnesses were interviewed and photos were taken, but no charges were filed.
The internal affairs investigators for the Geneva Police at that time were Mike Passalacqua and Matt Valenti.
On December 2 2017, the Geneva Police Department told Geneva Believer that they sent the domestic incident report to the New York State Police for investigation.
2 days later, The New York State Police told Geneva Believer that they did not have the report.
It was later confirmed by Geneva Believer that the officer involved in the domestic violence incident was Jack Montesanto.
September 13, 2017
An image began circulating on social media that displayed a collection of racist posts by Geneva Police officer Todd Yancey. The meme included confederate flag imagery, an image that reads “Trust Me, I’m White” and an image complaining about the need to “Press 1 for English.” The posts were created by Yancey on his personal Facebook page between 2012 and 2015.
It was also discovered that Yancey had changed his profile picture on Facebook to a Confederate flag image on July 1, 2015, just one day after the national media was awash with the news that the Ku Klux Klan had been approved to hold a rally at the statehouse in Columbia, SC to protest the removal of the Confederate flag.
An internal investigation was launched, and statements from city officials and community leaders strongly condemned the officer’s actions while pushing for a swift and fair resolution.
City officials stated that Yancey was on medical leave at the time the racist posts went viral, and assured residents that the officer would not be interacting with the public. One city councilor called for Yancey’s immediate dismissal.
No announcement was made, by any city officials or community leaders, regarding the officer’s exit or any other details related to the case for the next two years.
On May 2, 2019, Former Geneva Police officer Todd Yancey updated the profile photo on his personal Facebook page, posting a cropped image of an early version of the Confederate Flag, known as “the first national flag of the Confederate States of America.”
November 5, 2017
Local media reported that when Geneva Police Chief Jeff Trickler was hired as Chief of the Geneva Police Department in 2011, there was a requirement that he move to the City of Geneva. Trickler was even given $2,500 at the time to offset relocation costs.
But six years and four months later, Trickler still lived in the Town of Geneva. And he never gave back the $2,500.
At the next City Council meeting on December 6, 2017, city council passed a resolution removing the residency requirement from Chief Trickler’s employment agreement, and requiring the chief to pay back the $2,500 that he had failed to pay back for more than 6 years.
No other actions were taken and the chief was not sanctioned or disciplined in any way for violating the terms of his contract. Trickler retired several months later.
November 22, 2017
A complaint was filed against the City of Geneva, Geneva Police Department, and Detective Brian Choffin. The complaint states that an African-American man (“James”) from Geneva was experiencing “severe drug intoxication” after being arrested, and that Choffin denied the man adequate medical attention by transporting him to the Ontario County Jail instead of the hospital.
From the complaint:
“…When the Plaintiff’s mother told Defendant Choffin that she was going to call the Plaintiff’s lawyer, Defendant Choffin threatened the Plaintiff’s mother by saying “you call his lawyer and I will make sure he [the Plaintiff] hangs by his balls.”
Moreover, Defendant’s Choffin’s conduct (as described above) was driven by racial animous and hostility. When explaining his treatment of the Plaintiff, Defendant Choffin told the Plaintiff’s mother “that’s what you get for being a nigger lover….”
On October 18, 2017, court documents state that a settlement agreement had been reached.
On January 2, 2019, the case ended when a “stipulation of discontinuance” was filed.
Jack Montesanto was reinstated and began working again for the Geneva Police Department after serving a one year, four month paid suspension for an altercation with Chief Trickler.
However, as a condition of his reinstatement, Montesanto lost his rank as sergeant and was demoted to the level of the lowest ranking officer on the force.
Montesanto, who was hailed in 2015 as a “Next Generation Leader” by the City of Geneva, eventually contacted Geneva Believer and confirmed via email that he was currently working on the night shift and had lost all of his seniority after being “bullied into a demotion.”
July 31, 2019
A joint press conference between the Geneva Police Department, Ontario County Sheriff’s Office and the Ontario County District Attorney’s office was held at the Public Safety Building in Geneva at 3:00pm. Geneva Police Chief Mike Passalacqua announced that veteran Geneva officer Jack Montesanto had been arrested and charged with criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, a class A misdemeanor, for choking a woman who was in custody in the booking area at the police station. The victim, whose identity is being withheld, had been brought into the station for loud music (noise ordinance) and disorderly conduct, both violations.
Passalacqua stated that the victim did not seek medical assistance, and was “OK.”
Montesanto was arraigned the same day of his arrest, entered a plea of not guilty, and was placed on paid leave.
Two days later, members of the media and community were left wondering why Montesanto was only being charged with a misdemeanor when it was revealed in a Finger Lakes Times interview with Chief Mike Passalacqua that the victim had lost consciousness when she was choked by the officer, which, according to state law, should have merited a felony charge.
Chief Passalacqua knew that Montesanto was suspended for more than a year for a fight with the former chief, and he also knew that Montesanto had been the subject of a domestic violence complaint. Still, Passalacqua insisted in an interview that Montesanto was a “good cop” before the alleged (choking) incident.
Near the end of the August 7, 2019 City Council meeting, Montesanto was quietly placed on unpaid leave.
February 28, 2020
A request by Montesanto‘s attorney to drop the case against Montesanto was denied by the judge. The trial is scheduled to begin on March 16, 2020.
March 16, 2020
The trial of Jack Montesanto is postponed due to COVID-19. No new date for the trial was given at the time.
“Policies, Customs, Practices and Usages”
excerpt from the McCoy Civil Action, October 31, 2011:
“The Geneva Police Department has “policies, customs, practices and usages that exist” as follows:
A) To physically assault and strike citizens at will, without regard for the need of force, and without regard for the legality of its use.
B) To unlawfully strike citizens who have been subdued and handcuffed.
C) To unlawfully engage in searches and seizures of persons and places while acting under color of law.
D) To file and prosecute cover charges in encounters with citizens in which the officer or officers have improperly used force, or excessive force; such charges and prosecutions are used to justify the use of force and to protect police officers from liability for their improper conduct.
E) To conspire with others in the prosecution of such cover charges.
F) To act individually and to conspire with others to prevent the truth about the violence and transgressions of the other officer or officers from being know, by lying or by failing to report such transgressions.
G) To use private cell phones to communicate with each other while on duty in order to avoid creating official recordings of their activities and communications where improper conduct occurs.
H) To intentionally supervise, manage and review disciplinary complaints involving police misconduct in such a manner that legitimate citizen complaints almost never result in censure or discipline.
I) To propogate such practices and customs with knowledge that citizens would suffer harm, as the police officers operated under the belief that they would never suffer reprisal for their misconduct.”