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Cicero: Town, police department face down lawsuit

The town of Cicero and its police department, as well as one named police officer, faced a lawsuit by a resident alleging police brutality. The town board will discuss signing off on a confidential settlement at Wednesday's board meeting.

The town of Cicero and its police department, as well as one named police officer, faced a lawsuit by a resident alleging police brutality. The town board will discuss signing off on a confidential settlement at Wednesday's board meeting.

— Cicero officials are prepared to agree to settle a $2 million lawsuit against the town, the chief of police and a specific police officer at the town board meeting Wednesday.

The suit was brought in federal court by Albert Merola Jr., a resident of Beach Road in Brewerton, against the town of Cicero, Cicero Police Chief Joseph Snell and Cicero Police Officer James Snell. The suit, filed in United States District Court, Northern District of New York, on March 23, 2011, stems from incidents that took place in April of 2010. The suit alleges that James Snell physically assaulted Merola during an attempt to arrest him without cause, exacerbating injuries Merola sustained in a work accident in 2000 that left him permanently disabled and wearing a neck brace. James Snell’s actions caused numerous other injuries, the suit alleges.

According to the Notice of Claim filed in New York State Supreme Court in Onondaga County on June 3, 2010, Merola was walking his golden retriever northbound along Beach Road on April 12, 2010, and called his wife, Sherri, on his cell phone. While he walked, a Cicero police car drove by, also going northbound, at a high rate of speed, and Merola heard a voice say, “Stop!” which Merola did. The police car pulled over on the west side of the road, and Officer James Snell emerged from the vehicle and ran towards Merola.

Merola alleges in the court papers that, at that point, his dog spotted a rabbit and began to pull on the leash, so he turned his attention away from the officer and toward the dog. Snell ran at Merola at full speed, knocked him to the ground and began to kick him in the back. The court papers allege that Snell then forced his knee into Merola’s back and pushed his head into the ground by pressing on his neck brace.

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