The bench trial against a Rochester police officer accused of beating a man began on Wednesday.

Officer Michael Sippel is charged with misdemeanor assault.

Christopher Pate, 37, claims Sippel and Officer Spenser McAvoy ripped off his bookbag, tased him and punched him in the face after he was asked to show his ID a year ago. He suffered a fractured eye and broken jaw as a result. According to a police report, Pate, an African American man, was stopped because he matched the description of a wanted suspect.

A grand jury decided to drop charges against McAvoy, but felt the evidence against Sippel was enough to charge him. 

"I believe the evidence will establish these officers acted within the scope of the penal law and used justified force and used justified force to defend themselves and others," Defense Attorney Clark Zimmermann said. 

In court on Wednesday, the judge reviewed body camera footage of the incident which was made public for the first time. It shows the encounter Pate had with the two officers last May including blood on the ground and the moment he was tased.


"The objective was to gain control of the situation, not to cause injury," Zimmermann said.

However, Assistant District Attorney Gina Clark argues otherwise.

"No one is above the law, no one, not law enforcement, not him," Clark said.


McAvoy also took the witness stand Wednesday. He and Sippel both remain suspended with pay pending the outcome of their disciplinary hearings, according to the Rochester Police Department.

There was discussion in court about how much of the body cam footage is admissible, however the judge determined that anything following the actual arrest of Pate will not be made public.

More footage is expected to be revealed as the trial continues.