Mia Cortés Castro, Contributing Photographer

The New Haven Board of Alders formally approved $16 million in city funds for the city’s settlement with Randy Cox, a Black man who was paralyzed in a New Haven Police Department van while in custody last year.

In a Monday evening meeting in City Hall’s Aldermanic Chamber, the 25 alders present voted unanimously to allocate a portion of the city’s $22.3 million budget surplus for the 2022-2023 fiscal year to the $45 million settlement negotiated between New Haven and Cox’s attorneys.

“The city settled this case, and it is vital that the city make good on its obligations,” Westville Alder Adam Marchand, the chairman of the Finance Committee, told his colleagues before the vote.

The alders voted to transfer $16 million from New Haven’s General Fund to its litigation settlement account; the disbursement to Cox is slated for next month, according to Ward 27 Alder Richard Furlow, the Democratic majority leader. The city’s insurance is covering the remaining $29 million.

New Haven’s June 9 settlement agreement with Cox represented the largest payout to the victim of a police brutality or misconduct case in United States history. Previously, the largest settlement had reached $27 million, which the city of Minneapolis agreed to pay after former officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in 2020.

In a statement released after the settlement was announced, Cox’s attorneys, Louis Rubano and R.J. Weber III, reflected on the importance of the settlement’s substance.

“This settlement makes a strong statement that police departments and their municipalities will be accountable for ensuring that police officers honor the lives of those they are sworn to serve and protect,” they said.

In an interview with the News after Monday’s vote, Marchand said that the Finance Committee has been focused on identifying the proper source for the $16 million. 

The committee considered authorizing a bond program to raise the money, but, Marchand said, sufficient surplus funds remained from the 2022-2023 city budget to meet the city’s contribution to the payout without issuing special bonds.

“That was not clear at the moment of the committee action, but it was clear as of today,” Marchand added.

On Sept. 27, 2022, Cox’s attorneys filed a $100 million lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut. The lawsuit was filed against the City of New Haven and the five officers involved in arresting Cox.

Four of the officers — Jocelyn Lavandier, Luis Rivera, Oscar Diaz and Sargeant Betsy Segui — were fired in June. Ronald Pressley retired in January. All five are facing misdemeanor charges for their role in paralyzing Cox’s, a punishment that Cox’s lawyers have criticized as insufficient

According to the lawsuit, officers arrested Cox at a Juneteenth block party for alleged possession of a firearm, breach of peace in the second degree and carrying a pistol without a permit. Due to the arrest, the lawsuit says, Cox suffered a cervical spine injury and fracture, a compromised immune system, a chronic and permanent respiratory condition and a shortened life expectancy. 

The charges against Cox were later dropped.

“Cox has suffered and continues to suffer great physical and emotional pain, including but not limited to mental anguish, frustration and anxiety” as a direct result of “the aforesaid negligence and carelessness of the defendants,” the 29-page suit alleged.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said at a September 2022 press conference, after the lawsuit was filed, that an insurance hold was preventing an immediate settlement. The city’s insurance policies, which are worth close to $30 million, would require an additional payout, which left officials scrambling to find a source for the rest of the money.

During the same press conference, Elicker expressed his hope that the city’s remittance would be sufficient for New Haven to finance the significant medical care Cox will need for the rest of his life.

The City of New Haven will continue to do everything we can to assist him in his journey,” he wrote. 

Monday’s Board of Alders meeting marked the final step to completing the portion of the settlement the city is responsible for paying.

In addition to the settlement money, the alders voted on 25 other items at the meeting; among them were changes to the zoning code designed to encourage development in the Long Wharf neighborhood.

The next general Board of Alders meeting will take place on Oct. 2.

Mia Cortés Castro covers City Hall and State Politics, and previously covered Cops and Courts. Originally from Dorado, Puerto Rico, she is a sophomore in Branford College studying English.
Ethan Wolin covers City Hall and local politics. He is a first year in Silliman College from Washington, D.C.