October 25, 2021

Date set for trial in cop shooting

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Zachary Clark, center, listens with defense attorney Jerome Mayersak, left during Clark’s appearance in Cortland County Court in February. Clark is accused of shooting a Cortland police officer in March.

A trial is scheduled to start June 21 in the case of a Cortland man accused of shooting a city police officer in March 2020.

Cortland County Judge Julie Campbell said at a court appearance Thursday that any potential plea deals must be brought to her by June 17 in the case of Zachary L. Clark, 27, of 12 Elm St., who is charged with attempted first-degree Clark murder, attempted second-degree murder, attempted first-degree assault, two counts of menacing a police officer or peace officer, and aggravated assault upon a police officer, felonies.

He was also accused of third-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, prohibited use of a weapon and two counts of second-degree menacing, misdemeanors; and disorderly conduct, a violation.

Police said Clark shot Officer Chad Knapp three times on March 27, 2020, as Knapp responded to a domestic dispute at Clark’s home, leading to a 12hour standoff. Knapp was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, treated and released the next day.

Clark had been drinking and got into a violent dispute with family members around 7:30 p.m. shortly before the shooting, court documents show. Bryant Holl, Clark’s brother, would not let Clark borrow his car.

When Knapp responded, he was shot.

Clark surrendered around 8 the following morning. He was initially taken to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center and then to Upstate University Hospital for a non-life threatening gunshot wound to his left forearm.

Campbell said that because of COVID-19 restrictions, she said it will be likely that both jurors’ boxes will be used in the main courtroom to allow for social distancing.

Additionally, potential jurors will go to a separate room during the selection process and speak virtually to Campbell along with attorneys from both the prosecution and the defense through a computer as another precaution.

Before the pandemic, jurors could be called up to the judge’s bench and questioned by the attorneys and the judge, Campbell said.

In selecting jurors, Campbell said candidates are usually asked if they have ever committed a crime and if there are any reasons why they may not be impartial in a case.

For Clark’s case, Campbell said juror candidates would also be asked if anyone close to them, such as friends, family or relatives, work for a law enforcement agency.

Campbell said that any plea negotiations must be brought before her by June 17.

“So I don’t have 100 jurors who’ve reported and have nothing to do,” she said.

Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti had brought a plea agreement in February to the court for Clark to plead guilty to attempted second-degree murder in return for a sentence of 25 years in prison followed by five years of post-release supervision. Clark rejected the deal at the time.

Perfetti said he will use a large-screen TV to show evidence and that the defense can use it connected to a laptop, but asked that defense attorney Jerome Mayersak’s staff come to his office to learn how to use it before the trial starts.

Perfetti also notified Campbell that a firearm, knife and ammunition would be used as evidence during the trial and asked Campbell how she would like it stored in the courthouse.

Campbell said normally it is held in the District Attorney’s Office in a secure safe.

Mayersak asked that the Cortland County Jail, where Clark is being held, provide Clark with civilian clothing, which Campbell granted, noting the public defender’s office may have a wardrobe Clark can choose from.