For 3rd time in a month, suspect mistakenly released from Rikers Island

RIKERS ISLAND, New York City (WABC) -- A suspect who should not have been released from Rikers Island was let go for the third time in a month, though the Department of Correction says the error was not theirs.

James Reino, who was arrested in March for contempt of court, was released Thursday despite a civil warrant in place that had not yet been vacated by Judge Matthew Cooper.

The Department of Correction said the release was proper based on the court documents it received.

"There was no accidental release," Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Peter Thorne said. "Based on the documentation provided by the courts, the release from custody was in accordance with our policy."

He said that at the time of the release, the department had not received a copy of the civil warrant.

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Reino appeared virtually Friday at a civil court hearing on failure to pay child support, and Judge Cooper ruled he would not send Reino back to Rikers after the defendant told him he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Reino will instead be permitted to recover from coronavirus in the Huntington area, and the judge scheduled an April 12 date to update the case.

Cooper strongly admonished Reino to take his child support responsibility seriously and warned him if he doesn't, he will be sent back to jail for six months.

"You've been given a break today, largely because of the COVID diagnosis," Cooper said. "It doesn't make sense to put you back in jail...If need be, I will not hesitate to put you back in prison, and this time a long sentence."

This incident followed two recent mistaken releases at Rikers, after Nakim Meekins and Christopher Buggs were let out in March.

Meekins, a suspect in an attempted murder, was released after a court clerk accidentally listed his bail as $1.

He was arrested March 10 in connection with two incidents, the more serious a November 3 non-fatal shooting in which he charged with attempted murder and was supposed to be held on $300,000 bond/$100,000 bail.

A court spokesperson said he had a court appearance for that incident and a gun case, and that he also has a pending felony indictment in Supreme Court for which he had already posted bail.

The Bronx District Attorney agreed to a $1 nominal bail in the second case, a reckless endangerment and gun possession charge, in which Meekins allegedly opened fire on two people on August 30 but missed both.

The DA conceded Meekins could be released on his own recognizance in that case, but the judge kept same bail conditions on the attempted murder case.

The spokesperson said the clerk annotated the paper work as $1 bail on the gun case correctly but mistakenly indicated the release on the attempted murder case as well.

The 22-year-old later turned himself in.

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Buggs, accused of killing 55-year-old Ernest Brownlee outside a Brooklyn bodega, was also wrongfully released and remains at large.

He was released on March 9 on an unrelated case for which he was sentenced to time served.

Four Department of Correction employees have been suspended in Buggs' case, pending an investigation.

Anyone with information in regard to the whereabouts of Buggs is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).

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