Hector Santiago Beats Criminal Charges; Will Sue City Over Civil Rights Violations

Yonkers Civil Rights Commissioner Hector Santiago will sue his city over civil rights violations after being exonerated in criminal court resulting from a physical altercation at a City Council meeting last November.

Hector Santiago became known across the city in 2015 after the launch of his pro-police initiative called, Stop and Shake. Two years later, he walked from Yonkers to Albany to raise the issue of mental health awareness. Mayor Mike Spano then appointed him to the Yonkers Humans Rights Commission. This year, Santiago secured the Working Families Party line in the race for the third district on the City Council.

The assault of Hector Santiago

The 2022 debate to extend term limits for Mayor Spano became a spectacle in the already chequered past of Yonkers. During the City Council meeting which adopted this change, many residents and their elected representatives verbally sparred and exchanged insults. During this disorder, Hector Santiago was forcibly escorted from the chambers for allegedly shouting remarks at Majority Leader Tasha Diaz. While in an arm sling from a recent surgery, numerous YPD officers grabbed Santiago; pulling him into the outer hallway. There, Santiago pushed back on one officer, Detective Russell Kilgore. Kilgore responded with a closed-fist punch to Santiago’s face.

Hector Santiago arrest
Hector Santiago detained in City Hall โ€“ credit: YPD security footage

The police then arrested Santiago; charging him with โ€œObstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degreeโ€ and โ€œResisting Arrest.โ€ Considering Santiago’s notoriety and relationships in the area, the Westchester DA and numerous judges recused themselves from this case. The charges against Santiago were ultimately dismissed and reduced to only the simple violation of โ€œDisorderly Conductโ€ brought by the Orange County District Attorney. After over 20 appearances in the White Plains City Court, Judge John P. Collins Jr. ruled that Santiago was not guilty of that lone remaining charge.

The civil suit from Hector Santiago

Even before Hector Santiago’s criminal case reached its end, he filed a notice of claim with the City of Yonkers signaling his intent to sue. Civil rights lawyer Leo Glickman will argue to a federal court that the City, YPD, and Detective Kilgore violated Santiago’s constitutional rights. Among the violations will be malicious prosecution, excessive force, and right to a fair trial. Supporting these claims are the allegations that Kilgore falsified a police report and lied under oath in court. The civil suit will seek both compensatory and punitive damages resulting from Santiago’s ordeal. However, Glickman is not proposing any specific monetary figures; allowing a jury to determine the just compensation.

Beyond this action, Santiago and Glickman also seek criminal punishment for Kilgore. In a letter to DA Mimi Rocah, Glickman criticizes โ€œthe inaction of law enforcement authorities in the city and county.โ€ This inaction references the lack of any investigation and prosecution of the assault on Santiago. Glickman contrasts this to Santiago’s immediate arrest and prosecution. With Santiago’s criminal case concluded, Glickman awaits the launch of any law enforcement investigation into Kilgore. Failing that, further calls may be made like ones that resulted in the years-long federal oversight of the YPD due to similar complaints.

Speaking with Mr. Santiago after his complete exoneration in court, he affirmed his support of the police which is the cornerstone of his Stop and Shake program.

There are a lot more good cops than bad ones. And it’s just about holding the wrong-doers accountable.

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