New York Lieutenant Showed Off Photo of Woman he Injured

New York – An embattled Schenectady police lieutenant who was suspended two years ago for his role in splitting open the head of a woman in police custody showed a photo of her injuries to other high-ranking police officers and boasted “this is what happens when someone hits one of my men,” according to an internal affairs report of the incident.

The woman’s head was split open when she was picked up and slammed down onto a station bench by two officers, and then charged with a crime that portrayed her as the aggressor. One of the officers, Andrew MacDonald, was identified in court filings last year.

But the identity of the second officer, Lt. Mark McCracken, who showed other officers a photo of her head injuries, was confirmed late Friday when records from the internal affairs investigation were filed in U.S. District Court as part of a civil rights lawsuit filed by the female victim, Nicola Cottone.

Police officials last year confirmed McCracken had been suspended five days for the incident but would not confirm why or say whether he was involved in injuring Cottone. It’s unclear whether MacDonald had faced any discipline.

The internal affairs report filed in federal court characterized McCracken’s actions as “egregious” and accused him of using excessive force. The investigation found that McCracken took a photo of Cottone’s blood-spattered head and showed it off to multiple officers, including an assistant chief and a lieutenant.

The lieutenant, Jim Sanders, told internal affairs that McCracken had made the statement “this is what happens when someone hits one of my men.”

The internal affairs report summarized the encounter as follows: “(McCracken) pulling and swinging the feet out from (Cottone) while she was handcuffed caused (Cottone) to sustain the laceration to her head. … After the initial altercation (McCracken) hoists (Cottone) off of the bench and into the air by only her arms, which are still cuffed behind her back. He then carries her in this position out of the muster room and drops her onto her feet in the hallway in front of the Sergeants desk. These actions are egregious and placed (Cottone) at risk of injury. These techniques are not taught in training. A common technique used in this type of circumstance is a bar hammer or something similar. This use of force was excessive.”

Cottone was taken into custody by police on a warrant from another municipality that charged her with petit larceny. The federal complaint said she was suffering from “emotional impairment” when police brought her to the station on Sept. 13, 2016.

Cottone’s hands were cuffed behind her back when the incident took place in a room that’s known as the “muster room” and is normally used for roll call and not where people in custody are held. Security cameras captured the incident that was witnessed by several officers who were a mix of uniformed and plainclothes detectives, according to video footage of the incident obtained previously by the Times Union.

The complaint alleges that police falsely charged her with trying to kick one of the officers “to conceal the actions of the police officers.”

In an interview last year, McCracken declined to discuss the case or the department’s disciplinary action. He did recall that the incident took place on the same day that Chief Eric Clifford was sworn into his new role as chief. McCracken was one of several candidates who applied for the chief’s job two years ago.

“I’m not going to comment whether or not I’m being sued,” McCracken said at the time, noting that he is no longer a spokesman for the department. “I’m certainly not going to comment about my own (disciplinary situation). … I’m not saying anything about anything. I’m not going to comment on my professional career with anyone.”

Cottone, 40, was taken into custody that morning because she had been staying with a friend overnight and the person called city police because he wanted her to leave and she allegedly refused. Cottone had not been charged with a crime by Schenectady police.

Two cameras that captured footage of the incident did not have an audio feed. One of the tapes showed her acting agitated and talking constantly to officers who were in and out of the room where she was sitting on a bench.

That video also showed two officers rush toward Cottone who stood up as the officers grabbed her, lifted her up and then slammed her onto the bench. Blood streamed down the bench and onto the floor of the room as the officers quickly lifted Cottone and dragged her to the doorway, where she was placed on the floor of a hallway for more than 20 minutes. Several officers looked on as the incident unfolded.

Minutes later, a janitor entered the room and began mopping up the blood. An officer wearing gloves assisted in the cleanup at one point.

A report filed by the ambulance company that transported Cottone to a hospital, where she received stitches to close her head wound, said she “was found covered in blood after an altercation with a Schenectady police officer.”

Police subsequently charged Cottone with harassment, a violation. The complaint stated she “kicked a uniformed officer in the stomach during a struggle to control her.”

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney confirmed last year that his office moved to dismiss the harassment charge after reviewing the video of the incident.

“We didn’t think there was any cause to charge her in the first place,” Carney said. “I reviewed the videotape … and I believe there was no cause to believe that she had committed the charge of harassment by kicking an officer.”

He said his office initially resisted turning over the video to Cottone’s attorney, Kevin A. Luibrand, because the district attorney did not believe they had a right to the footage because prosecutors wanted to dismiss the case and not continue discovery. “I ultimately said, ‘Just give it to him,'” Carney said.

Last month, McCracken was charged with intentionally violating an unrelated order of protection by approaching his estranged wife at the Union College hockey rink. McCracken was later put on leave after internal affairs investigators joined an investigation already being conducted by the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office.