The Missing Link: Darryl Mount and the Saratoga County District Attorney

The office of the District Attorney is a powerful one. As will be discussed below, complaints by citizens over the death of Daryll Mount were sent to the New York State Attorney General who in turn referred them to the DA back in 2013. The DA has the power even today to select from a number of options to see that an independent review is carried out. Instead, it appears that the referrals by the Attorney General fell into a black hole.

Several weeks ago Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton was kind enough to provide me with the documents below. They represent the 2013 correspondence from the then-Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, to the Saratoga County District Attorney’s office.

According to the documents the Attorney General received quite a number of complaints regarding the Saratoga Springs Police Department. Many of these complaints related to the Darryl Mount incident. As the readers of this blog know, Mr. Mount was mortally hurt following a police chase in Saratoga Springs in the fall of 2013.

The Attorney General referred all of these complaints to James Murphy III. Mr. Murphy had been the Saratoga District Attorney for decades. However, at the time these referrals were made, Mr. Murphy had left the DA’s office and become a New York State judge.

Karen Heggen had been Judge Murphy’s assistant at the District Attorney’s office and with his leaving she became “acting” DA. She subsequently was elected District Attorney and is currently serving in this office. She would have been responsible for addressing the referrals made to her office by the Attorney General.

Each complaint had an accompanying cover letter. The letter requested that the DA’s office take “…whatever action you deem appropriate.”

What If Anything Did The District Attorney Do In Response To the Attorney General’s Referrals?

I was interested in learning if there had been any effort by any public institution to initiate an independent investigation of the Darryl Mount case. To that end, I FOILed the city with the following request:

“This FOIL is to request all correspondence between the city and other public institutions requesting that an independent investigation into the death of Darryl Mount.”

Unfortunately, while the city acknowledged that they do have documents pertaining to my request, they denied me access citing “…they pertain to inter-agency and intra-agency documents that contain opinions, advice, recommendations, etc. which may be withheld pursuant to Public Officers Law 87(2)(g).”

Subsequent to this denial I wrote to Saratoga County DA Karen Heggen as follows:

In October of 2013 Eric Schneiderman, then the attorney general, referred to your office complaints about the troubling circumstances of Darryl Mount’s injury and subsequent death.

Do you recall how you responded to these referrals?

Email from John Kaufmann to Karen Heggen

So far Ms. Heggen has not responded.

Karen Heggen Is The Critical Player In Any Independent Investigation

This all led me on a hunt for understanding what role the District Attorney had in this matter. I explored the issue by searching the web and I reached out to my network of attorneys.

First, my legal contacts all observed that an incident like Mount’s required an independent investigation. Asking an institution like a police force to investigate itself was problematic. At a minimum, the optics would ensure what we have seen, that a cloud would hang over the institution.

They also explained to me that not only did the District Attorney have the tools to pursue an investigation at the time, but that there is no statute of limitations keeping Ms. Heggen from acting even today.

She has three basic options:

First, Ms. Heggen could request that the New York State Police investigate how the Saratoga Springs Police Department handled all the aspects of the Mount case. Their mission would not be to determine the potential criminal culpability of the officers involved but to establish whether there were any improprieties in the entire affair.

Second, Ms. Heggen could impanel a grand jury to investigate the entire case. Grand juries meets in secret. They can, however, issue a report to the public regarding their findings. The grand jury could potentially issue an indictment. They could also report on any problems they found with the handling of the case and issue recommendations for corrective action.

Finally, Ms. Heggen could refer the issue back to the Attorney General citing a lack of resources in her office to properly handle this. The Attorney General has considerable resources to pursue all this.

The central issue is that Ms. Heggen, as the Saratoga County District Attorney, is key to any independent review.

It is frustrating and disturbing that the Attorney General referred this sensitive case to Ms. Heggen’s office and the public has no idea what if anything she has done.

Our City Council should insist that District Attorney Heggen publically disclose what actions she took as a result of receiving the referrals from the Attorney General. If Ms. Heggen refuses to disclose what happened, the City Council should ask the Attorney General to take action.

The fact that the family of Daryll Mount is suing the city is no excuse for not having an independent body carry out a rigorous review.

Let me be clear, I have no idea how Darryl Mount died. I find it troubling that many of those protesting assume that he was murdered by the police. What is available to the public currently is insufficient to draw any final conclusions.

It is axiomatic that there should be an independent investigation. Ms. Heggen has the authority to pursue all this and it is my hope that she will rise to the occasion and at a minimum tell the public what she has done so far. Hopefully, she will recognize that justice means a credible and rigorous pursuit of all the facts by her office.


The Correspondence

15 thoughts on “The Missing Link: Darryl Mount and the Saratoga County District Attorney”

  1. Your scanner called. It wants a vacation ASAP. Good job!

    I’ll have more to say, after the inevitable dismissive comments from ex-Commissioners who won’t recognize that a significant portion of the citizenry just does not believe all the facts about The Mount incident have reached the light of day.

    Chat with you then. Excellent post.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think you need to do a bit more research and keep digging. The bottom line is that there’s nothing to investigate, and that likely explains Ms Heggen’s not taking any formal action. I am aware that there are ear witnesses to his fall and video (albeit apparently with the fall occurring just off screen). The first people on the scene were civilians. These eye witnesses were likely deposed or subpoenaed and the city would have transcripts of their testimony which must be disclosed under FOIL. The city should have all this information, as does their opposing attorney which makes any assertion of privilege in FOIL rebutted.

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  3. John
    Dr. Mathiesen first claimed that the DA and AG were contact about doing an investigation and “and apparently determined that the investigation by the SSPD was satisfactory”
    He was unable to provide any documentation that the DA or AG were contacted. Rather he later responded that an unnamed source told him that the both agencies declined to initiate an investigation. It was “inferred” that there was no reason to do so.

    the Police Chief admitted in his deposition that the investigation his office conducted was as to the criminal conduct of Mr. Mount. There was no separate investigation as to the conduct of the police officers, no internal affairs investigation , despite general order #25. He admitted in his deposition that he mislead the Press and the public on that point.

    It is clear from the documents that you obtained that the AG did not make any determination as to the conduct of the SSPD or”infer” that there was no reason to have an investigation. Rather the matter was referred by the AG to the Saratoga County DA for appropriate action.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim,

      Apparently, Dr. Mathiesen was right about the AG and DA being contacted multiple times about the Darrryl Mount alleged domestic violence incident and subsequent pursuit. John Kaufmann has displayed this information in this blog entry. None of John’s entries are news since many of these people and others came to the Council in the Autumn of 2013 to state their complaints against the SSPD. They were organized by a former local blogger whose statement is included in this listing. Of course, that person and all the others were not present when the Mount incident occurred and so have no relevant knowledge of what happened.

      Some of the complaints were based on incidents that occurred well prior to August 31, 2013. One of the problems that the City had faced prior to the installation of the surveillance cameras in the nightclub district and the eventual use of body cameras (Saratoga Springs was one of the first cities in the area to start using body cameras) was the numerous complaints of excessive force by the police. The City kept settling many cases that should have been challenged because there was no way of proving that the cops were not at fault. The cameras helped tremendously. Far fewer cases are being settled to this day and those cameras became important factors in disproving the initial allegations in the Darryl Mount case.

      A number of the letters to the AG that John included are simply requests for an outside investigation. ‘Quite a number of complaints regarding the Saratoga Springs Police Department’ seems to be an overstatement. John should more closely investigate the circumstances behind the actual complaints before publicizing them all. He may find out that some of these claims are not well supported.

      One of the letters mentioned an incident that had taken place on Caroline Street which resulted in the resignation of one officer and the disciplining of another. Actually, it was two officers disciplined along with one resignation. That person failed to mention that the incident took place when all three officers were off duty. The misconduct did not take place while the officers were working. The officer who resigned would otherwise have been terminated for his behavior.

      Another officer was terminated a year later for improper treatment of an individual who had been purposely baiting the officer. That individual apparently had some mental health issues and was trying very hard to get an overreaction from the officer. He was successful and the officer ultimately had to turn in his badge.

      Other than those two incidents, there were no other significant complaints made to me about the SSPD during my six years as Commissioner. I encouraged feedback and we actually reached out to the public on a regular basis to give our citizens the opportunity to comment on how the Public Safety Department was doing during our many Public Safety forums. I did receive quite a few complimentary comments about the SSPD but very few valid negative claims.

      There was never any tolerance for excessive use of force by the SSPD during my six years as Commissioner. Had there been any indication that the police acted improperly in the Mount case, an Internal Investigation would have taken place. Any officers or supervisors or investigators found to have acted improperly would have been severely disciplined or dismissed from the department. Any indication that the Internal Investigation was tainted or too challenging would have resulted in an investigation by an investigation by an outside agency.

      Everyone involved in the Darryl Mount incident was just doing their jobs to the best of their ability and observing universal standards; the police who intervened while observing an alleged act of domestic violence and who summoned the SSFD as soon as they found a seriously injured man at the base of scaffolding, the Police Chief who immediately began re-assuring his officers in light of the vicious blog that circulated the day after the incident, the investigators, the Commissioner and Police Chief who in 2014 released to the public volumes of evidence regarding the department’s investigation into the incident, the AG and the DA.

      John Kaufmann has now decided to turn his sights on District Attorney Heggen who is guilty of absolutely nothing. To her credit, she refuses to be controlled by mob rule. John Kaufmann, Barbara Lombardo, Arthur and the numerous contributors to this blog who hide behind various pseudonyms either are allowing themselves to be manipulated by a clever attorney who has no regard for peoples’ reputations and who manipulates out-of-context facts or are refusing to accept the truth, for whatever reason.

      Chris Mathiesen

      Liked by 1 person

      1. On what basis did DA Heggen decide not to do an independent investigation? There is no record of her formally reviewing what happened both in terms of the incident itself or of whatever process the review by the department took. Why would Ms Heggen be unwilling to explain any of this? I do not ask these questions rhetorically. Could you describe for my readers how Ms. Heggen determined that nothing was required by her office?
        I regret that you cannot understand why the death of someone involving the department should not trigger an investigation by an outside organization. If everything was done properly as you clearly believe, why would you not invite such a review?

        Liked by 2 people

  4. We are talking in circles which seem to never end. Darryl Mount tragically was injured while running from a police pursuit. The police did not even witness the apparent accident much less cause it. We did not know that Darryl was going to pass away until he actually did many months later. As you know, both Chief Veitch and I assured everyone that the department would cooperate with any investigation by an outside agency should one have occurred.

    In my opinion, DA Heggen based her decision on the need for an outside investigation using her judgement and her experience. I am not sure why she owes an explanation to John Kaufmann but maybe she feels otherwise.

    Chris Mathiesen

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      1. I am not sure what John is talking about since his research shows that the requests for an outside investigation came through the AG office to the DA. There were no formal requests to the DA or the AG from me, other City officials or the SSPD that I am aware of and none of John’s research indicates otherwise. Again, these continuous assertions that SOMEONE must have done something wrong need to be terminated.

        Chris Mathiesen

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  5. I said I would comment further, and so here goes:

    Many of the points I would make have been articulated perfectly by JK, so I shall not rehash those. I stick to my contention that a significant portion of the citizenry do not believe that all the facts about the Mount incident have reached the light of day.

    Those who do believe that the Police handled everything perfectly (or even properly) on that night should be the first to welcome independent confirmation of this fact. To reject this independent confirmation out of hand will naturally raise suspicions.

    Apparently, the new Public Safety Commissioner-elect will begin gathering facts to issue a report when he takes office. This is a positive step and I believe we should see what he comes up with, but this does not mean blind acceptance.

    A side note: I am amazed that a County DA’s office (DA Murphy’s transition to Judge notwithstanding) can essentially ignore a referral from a State AG. A clear response, even if it is to decline, with clear reasons, should be standard operating procedure. How often does this happen, and why do we wonder why people feel disenfranchised and take to the streets?

    In all of this, I have tried to keep my personal opinions on the side, until now. I actually believe that, given the state of camera tech, and the passage of time, finding a definitive answer to what happened will be near impossible. But that does not mean we should not try to. In fact, it would be money well spent.

    Note well that the House Committee on Assassinations overturned the Warren Commission’s “lone gunman ” theory to “likely conspiracy ” after several decades of citizen skepticism. We should not have to wait so long in Saratoga Springs.

    I will not comment further on this subject until the Commissioner-elect has time to issue his report. I wish him good luck, and hope that a fresh pair of eyes on this subject leads to further clarity, if not total resolution.
    Arthur Gonick

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I would think that the AG’s office gets flooded with letters every single time there is the perception that a police action may have been inappropriate. There is no evidence of police malfeasance in this case. From a technical perspective, there was no ‘referral’ to the County DA here. The AG simply forwarded the letters to the entity that that could evaluate the subject matter. The letters did not contain any evidence of a crime. Family and friends of Mount were and are upset over his death.

    Do not run from the police. The root meaning of ‘arrest’ is to ‘stop’. People are stopped in order to pause and evaluate something that may affect safety. Arrest is not necessarily a bad thing.

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  7. Mulligan-Dillon had accused Guerra of fraud, but she was not charged with that. As I understand it the charge is signing the witness statement that said she had seen each person actually sign the petition when she had not. If true, a serious error on her part but still a rookie mistake that is not uncommon especially for someone new to petitioning who may not have been adequately trained before she went out. Moran could have challenged these petitions when they were filed in the spring and probably have had them thrown out, but he seemed to wait all these months to pursue this when he could make more of a splash. Since disqualifying those petitions would not have kept the Republicans from getting their second line most people would not have bothered to pursue this. I suspect if found guilty, she will mostly likely get some kind of fine. So my question is when will Moran who actually did intentionally and deliberately commit fraud when he created a phony letter from the NYS Department of Health that he used in his last campaign when he ran for Public Works be held accountable?

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