CLEVELAND » A prosecutor has offered to drop charges against five white police supervisors accused of failing to stop a car chase that ended in a deadly 137-shot barrage of police gunfire and the deaths of two unarmed black people if they’re willing to say they endangered the public and meet other conditions, attorneys for two supervisors said Wednesday.
Both attorneys said their clients have rejected the deal and are prepared to go to trial. Calls to attorneys for the other supervisors weren’t immediately returned.
The supervisors were part of a 22-mile-long chase that included more than 60 cars and 100 Cleveland police officers. They are charged with misdemeanor dereliction of duty.
The car chase ended in neighboring East Cleveland, where patrol officers fatally shot driver Timothy Russell and passenger Malissa Williams. None of the supervisors fired their weapons.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty has said that if the supervisors had done their jobs, Russell and Williams would still be alive. His office did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.
Attorney Kevin Spellacy said his client, Sgt. Patricia Coleman, won’t admit doing anything wrong.
"She maintains her innocence and looks forward to being vindicated," Spellacy said. "I’m not interested in negotiations."
Attorney Susan Gragel, representing Sgt. Michael Donegan, said he can’t admit wrongdoing because he’s fighting the city in court over the reversal of his firing by an arbitrator. She said Donegan has gone without pay for more than two years, while the other supervisors are on restricted duty.
"It makes it difficult to consider what the prosecutor offered," Gragel said.
The specter of race has clung to the shooting since it occurred the night of Nov. 22, 2012. All but one of the 13 patrol officers who shot at the car containing Russell and Williams are white. Michael Brelo, who is white, was the only officer charged criminally for shooting at Russell and Williams. He was acquitted of manslaughter charges by a judge on May 23, sparking street protests.
That judge, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell, is assigned to the supervisors’ cases. Their attorneys aren’t saying, but it’s expected that they’ll also ask to have him, not a jury, decide their fates.
While their trial is scheduled to start July 27, McGinty has said he plans to move it to a misdemeanor court in East Cleveland. The lone municipal court judge there is black, and a jury pool would be drawn from a population that’s 93 percent black. In comparison, about 30 percent of Cuyahoga County’s residents are black, as are about 53 percent of Cleveland’s residents.
McGinty, when asked earlier this week if moving the trial would improve his office’s chances of a conviction, said the question was "speculative" and said he was confident about a conviction no matter where the trial is held.