Charges dropped against Albany Police Review Board coordinator

WNYT Staff
Updated: November 07, 2019 10:59 PM
Created: November 07, 2019 12:46 PM

All charges were dropped against Clay Gustave in criminal court on Thursday morning.

As NewsChannel 13 first reported, it all stems from a traffic stop last August.


At the time, Gustave worked for Albany's Community Police Review Board.

The officer who pulled him over felt Gustave was driving recklessly.

A special prosecutor was brought on to review the case. Special District Attorney Shane Hug says he can't see a traffic infraction happening on the video because the officer involved says it happened behind him and no such video was captured on camera.

"I'm left with more questions than I think I have answers to. I don't know what happened that day," Hug stated. "According to the police officer, the alleged traffic infraction occurred, unfortunately, behind him, and as such as there is no video to capture it. What is alleged to have occurred here under the law, in my estimation, is not reckless driving. If there is no reckless driving, then there was no lawful arrest for Mr. Gustave to resist. There's conflicting information in the videos." 

Hug added, "Based upon my conversation with the officer stated, as a prosecutor, it is my job to seek justice and I've been careful in reviewing the matter to figure out what happened and what the result is, but as I indicated here I have more questions than answers. It is undisputed that Mr. Gustave had a suspension on his license. The question becomes though was there a lawful stop, if the stop was not lawful the case would not survive a suppression hearing and charges would be dismissed. I do not feel it's appropriate for me to move forward with this prosecution. I don't think ethically I should be doing so."

In August, Albany's police chief stood by that officer -- who is no longer with Albany Police Department because he is currently with another law enforcement agency. Chief Eric Hawkins said then Gustave put his men and women and the public in unnecessary danger. 

NewsChannel 13 has asked the police department for a follow up on camera interview with the city's police chief.  

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins released the following statement:

"I've had an opportunity to hear the reasons as to why the case was dismissed and I strongly disagree. However, I respect the judicial process and feel that it's time for the Albany community to move forward. I remain committed to giving my officers the support, resources, and training they need to continue enhancing police-community relations."

Attorney Mark Mishler represents Clay Gustave. Mishler told NewsChannel 13: "This is a case where allegations were made against Mr. Gustave that were not true and did not have a legal basis, and fortunately we had a prosecutor who understood to carefully review the evidence, review everything with an open mind he reached the conclusions that he reached, this case could not be prosecuted. We are very appreciative of Hug and his thoroughness in what he did." 

Mishler added, "I do believe that this incident would not have happened period had Mr. Gustave not been an African American man and I absolutely do not think it would have escalated and unfolded the way it did had Mr. Gustave not been an African American man."

Mishler went on to say he urges the leadership of the police department and the city of Albany to "think carefully about the practice of immediately publicly making statements after an incident happens, that indicate they believe everything is cool, and everything is fine and officers acted properly. Sometimes that may be the case, sometimes it's clearly not. And I'd think it would be better and beneficial for the people of Albany and the police department instead of making such statements, to take a step back, let it play out in the legal system the proper manner that happened here and that would go a long way toward improving police community relations, safety in the city of Albany and safety for the police officers."

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