Rikers Island supervisor, officers charged in inmate's beating

June 26, 2013 3:20:26 PM PDT
New York City prosecutors say 10 city Department of Correction employees have been indicted in connection with a gang assault of an inmate last summer and subsequent cover-up at Rikers Island jail.

The correction officers surrendered Wednesday morning and appeared in the state Supreme Court in the Bronx.

The indictment was unsealed in the Bronx on Wednesday following an 11-month investigation. Seven of the 10 were charged with assault and attempted gang assault, and all 10 have been charged with evidence tampering.

The incident allegedly began when the inmate, 28-year-old Jahmal Lightfoot, dropped a piece of metal, likely a handmade weapon. When the guards went to pick it up, a scuffle ensued involving the officers and Lightfoot.

Afterwards, he says he was taken to a holding pen and severely beaten. His family says he lost teeth and vision, and his face was severely disfigured.

Last week, the supervising warden for security resigned amid the probe, being conducted by the Department of Investigations and the Bronx District Attorney's Office.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson says a two Correction officials ordered staff members to assault an inmate. Johnson says the officials then faked their reports, claiming the inmate had attacked first. The inmate suffered fractures to both of his eye sockets, a broken nose and other facial injuries that caused his eyes to swell shut.

A representative for the officers calls the investigation a witch hunt. Attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who represents the family, says it is time that the Justice Department step in and appoint a monitor to oversee the activity at Rikers.

Lightfoot is currently serving a four-year sentence at Franklin Correctional Facility for second-degree robbery. He sued the Correction Department and the city in March for an unspecified amount of money.

Johnson has said he needs more City Council funding to investigate the numerous Rikers Island cases "involving staff misconduct, including the coverup of excessive use of force by corrections officers, sexual assault, suspicious inmate deaths and contraband," as well as "inmate-on-inmate crime."