Seeking to protect others from suffering a similar fate, Jeffers speaks out about caught-on-camera assault from three brothers

— Still frame from video

John Jeffers is held on the ground by one of the three Siemann brothers while another one kicks him, footage recorded from a Voorheesville security camera shows.

VOORHEESVILLE — John Jeffers has been in fights before, he said, “but not with three grown men,” so he knows what it’s like to get hit. And that’s why, on Oct. 4, he sought to avoid it as much as possible, tucking his body under one of the three Siemann brothers who had been assaulting him, he said, because he “knew the kicks were gonna start coming.”

Jeffers was 20 on Oct. 4 and is 21 now. The Seimann brothers are in their mid- to late thirties: Ronald is 35, Bryan is 37, and Robert is 38.

The New York State Police in late October charged all three brothers with third-degree assault, a class A misdemeanor, while Robert Siemann was additionally charged with second-degree harassment, a violation.

The brothers appeared in New Scotland Town Court on Nov. 5, and pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their cases were adjourned to Jan. 7, 2021.

The Siemann brothers declined to comment, stating their lawyer had advised them not to.

The court has issued three orders of protection, mandating that the three Siemann brothers stay away from Jeffers, according to his father.

Jeffers and his friend, Tanner Baker, were playing basketball on Sunday, Oct. 4, at Nichols Park, behind Village Hall, in Voorheesville, when the incident occurred.

Nearly every kick and punch of the fracas was captured by a village of Voorheesville security camera, which was reviewed in person at Village Hall by The Enterprise. The paper also requested a copy of the footage from the village; the request was denied because the video had been handed over to the New York State Police as evidence, the village said.

After requesting the 15 to 20 minutes of footage from the State Police on Dec. 4, The Enterprise received an email on Dec. 7, saying the newspaper would receive a written response to its records request “by or before May 27, 2021.”


The fight

Jeffers described events as unfolding this way:

Jeffers and Baker were not paying attention to the Siemann brothers although they did hear “some weird things” the brothers were yelling at no one in particular, Jeffers said. 

Jeffers said that one of the brothers came down the hill from the American Legion Hall and asked him if he and his friend each wanted to make $10. 

Jeffers said he did and Siemann asked to see the ball, at which point Jeffers handed the ball to Siemann, who proceeded to punt it across the court. 

Jeffers asked for the money, he said, knowing full well it was never coming. 

Siemann went off to get the money, and came back a few minutes later and said that his one brother was being a f_gg_t (Jeffers himself would not say the word; he would only spell it out) and wouldn’t give him the money, according to Jeffers.

Siemann was supposed to get $50 and then give $10 each to Jeffers and Baker, he said, “But it was just one of those stupid drunk bets.”

“What I think sparked anger in them,” Jeffers said, was when the one Siemann brother said the other was being a f_gg_t and Jeffers said, “Well, you guys are both being that. Why don’t you go up to the bar and drink some more.”

Jeffers said that he and Baker had thought the Siemann brother who had offered the money had been drinking. Siemann then got defensive and accused Jeffers and Baker of being drunk, Jeffers said, which they were not. 

As the one Siemann brother got increasingly louder, that’s when the other two came to his side, Jeffers said. 




Video rendition

The Enterprise obtained about a minute worth of footage, which is about how long the assault lasted. The video is a camera-phone recording taken inside of village hall from someone reviewing what was captured by Voorheesville’s security camera, and is available with the online version of this story.

The video shows the fight started with both sides pushing and shoving, and quickly all five men were on the other side of the basketball court, and Jeffers had one Siemann brother on top of him. 

Then Baker can be seen running over and trying to push Siemann off of his friend, but Baker is pushed away by another of the Siemann brothers, which is quickly followed by the third brother kicking Jeffers twice, moving out of frame, and then coming back into frame, winding up, and kicking Jeffers in the head.

He gets off another kick before Baker pushes him off, then it appears that the second Siemann brother — who had initially pushed away Baker in the beginning of the scuffle — gets in a kick or two. 

According to Inspector J.T. Campbell of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, one of the Siemann brothers was punched in the face and was showing signs of a black eye on Oct. 4. 


Calling 9-1-1

Baker wasn’t hurt badly, Jeffers said; Baker’s leg may have been hurt a bit from being kicked, he added.

After Jeffers got up off the ground, he called 9-1-1, he said.

Jeffers told the Siemann brothers he was calling the police and that’s when one of them came over and tried to kick the phone out of his hand, Jeffers said. 

Of the six or seven law-enforcement officers — four sheriff’s deputies, two or three state troopers, and a town vehicle — who responded to the call, only the sheriff’s deputy came down to the basketball court to talk to the two young men, Jeffers said. 

Jeffers said that he did not remember the dark-haired female deputy’s name with whom he and Baker spoke. 

But he did remember that “the first thing she did was yell at me,” he said, for hanging up on the dispatcher. The deputy told him, he then corrected himself, she yelled at him, that hanging up on the dispatcher causes law enforcement to rush to the scene like it’s a fight in progress — which there was, according to Jeffers. 

When Jeffers told the deputy that there had been a fight in progress, he said, “She kind of played it off like it wasn’t a big deal.”

Campbell said that he had reviewed the body-camera footage of the exchange, and said that the deputy did not raise her voice “at all.”

Campbell said Jeffers hadn’t been cooperative with the dispatchers; therefore the call “toned out” as a fight-in-progress when, in fact, according to Campbell, things had been calm for about 10 minutes. 

Jeffers said that, when he called 9-1-1, one of the Siemann brothers tried to kick the phone out of his hand, so, according to him, and it appears so in the video, he was still in the middle of the altercation. 

Campbell said that there were a number of cars racing toward the scene with their lights flashing and sirens blaring, which wasn’t needed. If Jeffers had stayed on the phone and told the dispatcher what was going on, Campbell said, law enforcement would have better understood the situation and it would have changed its response. 

Jeffers disagreed, because, while the situation may have been calm when police arrived at the scene, he had difficulty staying on the phone because he had been defending himself against multiple grown men, one of whom was trying to knock the phone out of his hand, in the middle of the 9-1-1 call, he said.

Jeffers also pointed out that, after he called 9-1-1, there was no more physical fighting between himself and the Siemann brothers — so the call alone appears to have calmed the situation.

The Enterprise filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the 9-1-1 call related to the Oct. 4 incident, but that request was denied.



Jeffers said he was told by the deputy that, if he wanted to press charges, it would only be a harassment charge, and that it would end up costing him more money to pursue the case than any satisfaction he would gain from it. 

So, thinking that the benefit would not be worth the cost, an assumption that was based on what he says he was told by the sheriff’s deputy, Jeffers said, he decided against pressing charges. “I later found out that it doesn’t cost money to press charges,” he said.

“No, she never said that,” Campbell said of the deputy telling Jeffers it would cost money to press charges. 

Campbell said the body-camera footage from the incident shows that Jeffers was offered the opportunity to press charges and opted not to. Jeffers and Baker were even given directions to the sheriff’s Clarksville station, should they decide to press charges, according to Campbell. 

On Jeffers’s claim of being deterred from pressing charges by the deputy, Campbell said, “That wasn’t the case at all; I watched the body cam.” 

Campbell added that he would have handled the incident the exact same way as the deputy.

With some of Jeffers’s account of the incident now in question, Campbell was asked if Jeffers told the deputy that he had been kicked repeatedly and Campbell said, “He said it all happened very quickly.”

Asked again if Jeffers told the deputy that he had been kicked repeatedly, Campbell said he’d have to look at the footage again, adding that he “didn’t want to get into too much of it because it is pending in court.”

Asked to reply to Campbell’s response, Jeffers said he “definitely, 100 percent remember[ed] telling” the deputy that one of the Siemann brothers “kick[ed] me in the head.”


Jeffers responds

When presented with Campbell’s response to his account and how Campbell said his answers to questions from The Enterprise were based on a viewing of the body-camera footage, Jeffers conceded some points but largely stood by his story. 

On the female deputy not raising her voice when she arrived at the scene, as Campbell said the video showed, Jeffers acknowledged that he should have worded himself a little better because Campbell took yelling “in a literal sense,” adding, “Obviously, she’s not going to raise her voice — I mean, she’s a police officer — but she was pretty stern about saying that you shouldn’t do that,” referring to the way Jeffers had called for help.

About Campbell’s claim that Jeffers’s 9-1-1 call was “toned out” as a fight-in-progress when, according to Campbell, things had been calm for about 10 minutes, Jeffers was nonplussed.

“Wow, wow, that’s incredible,” Jeffers said, because, in his telling and what he said can be seen in the village footage is this: He was getting up off of the ground because he was in the middle of a fight and, as he pulled his phone out his pocket to call 9-1-1, one of the Siemann brothers tried to kick it out his hand.

“I don’t know how he says that I called 10 minutes later,” Jeffers said. 

On being told that Campbell had refuted his claim about the deputy telling him pressing charges would cost him money, which is why he decided not to do so at the moment while also later finding out it wouldn’t have cost him anything to press charges,  Jeffers was again astonished at what he heard.

“Wow, yeah,” he began, “you know they’re playing some games here, because I remember — exactly remember — she said, ‘Would you like to press charges? It would just be harassment.’ I asked if it would cost me more money in the long run, and if I’d get any satisfaction out of it.”

And the deputy, according to Jeffers, answered that, “yes, probably,” the relief he’d ultimately receive would not be worth what it would cost him to press charges.


FOIL denied

The Enterprise, in an attempt to corroborate either Campbell or Jeffers account of the interaction with the deputy, filed a Freedom of Information Law request with Albany County for the body-camera footage on Nov. 30, and held off publishing this story. 

That request was denied earlier this week.

According to the Dec. 8 letter from Executive Undersheriff Michael S. Monteleone, “The video that was requested contains images of private citizens who have a right to privacy. Our office is unable to blur, distort or otherwise conceal their images to protect their identity. Since the video you have requested could be broadcast or made public with resulting embarrassment or harassment because of a police encounter, it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy pursuant to Public Officers Law…”

The letter did not specify who, police or the public, would be embarrassed by the release of the video.


The aftermath

Jeffers said that he and his father went to the village hall the day after the incident, Oct. 5, to view the video, and that’s when they decided to press charges. 

Jeffers said that two or three of the kicks he sustained — one to his hip and two to his head —  have caused problems. One head kick got him “good,” he said, adding that he has had headaches and that the lumps on his head from being kicked made sleeping difficult and painful.

But Jeffers did not go to the doctor or a hospital after the Oct. 4 incident. 

When asked why, he said that it was “more of a COVID-type thing”; he didn’t want to go to the hospital out of fear of contracting the virus and then not be able to work for a longer period of time.

“I kind of wanted to feel it out for myself and see if I could make my own recovery,” he said, which appears to have worked out, as he is feeling “all right now.”

Jeffers, the father, also named John, said his son stayed awake for two straight nights because of headaches.

He also said that his son didn’t work for eight days. The younger Jeffers was working for his father, performing carpentry and renovation work in the family’s basement. The younger Jeffers is now working at Hannaford in the village and doing some construction work on the side, he said. 

When asked why he was willing to come forward now, Jeffers said: “I’ve had a few fights myself and I know how to not get hit, but imagine if it was another kid who was smaller than me, who was not as strong, or didn’t know how to fight — it’s kind of messed up, you gotta get these guys before they do it to a young, young kid and actually hurt somebody, rather than [somebody] like me.”

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