5 Correction officers found guilty of all charges in Rikers inmate beating, cover up

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N.J. Burkett has details on the guilty verdict against 5 New York City correction officers.

Five of six New York City Department of Correction officers were found guilty Tuesday on all counts in connection with a 2012 gang assault of an inmate and subsequent cover-up at Rikers Island.

The six officers were among 10 charged, with three others opting for a bench trial and the fourth too ill to go on trial at this time.

The five officers -- former Chief Eliseo Perez and officers Alfred Rivera, Tobias Parker, Jose Parra and David Rodriguez -- were convicted of attempted gang assault, attempted assault, assault, falsifying business records, offering false instrument for filing and official misconduct. The top count carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.

According to DOC policy, they have been fired because they were found guilty.

One officer, Jeffrey Richard, was cleared of the three charges he was facing.

The incident began when the inmate, Jahmal Lightfoot, then 28, 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 was taken to a holding pen and severely beaten.

Two Correction officials ordered staff members to assault the inmate, and officials then faked their reports, claiming the inmate had attacked first.

Lightfoot suffered fractures to both of his eye sockets, a broken nose and other facial injuries that caused his eyes to swell shut.

"We have zero tolerance for any illegal behavior on the part of staff, and the officers found guilty of felonies will be terminated," DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte said in a statement. "The vast majority of our officers carry out their duties with care and integrity, and we are taking many steps to ensure that all staff adhere to the highest professionalism. We are confident that our reforms are yielding a quality staff in which all New Yorkers can take pride."

Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook had a different take, issuing a blistering statement.

"Today's verdict is an absolute travesty and yet another example of how Correction Officers are treated differently and disrespected for doing the job they are sworn to do - protect New Yorkers," he said. "We wonder if it is even possible for these officers to receive a fair trial given that the powers that be regularly use Correction Officers as a scapegoat for decades of mismanagement at Rikers. This is not only unfair, it is unjust for the men and their families whose lives are being upended by this verdict. After all, this case is based on the allegations and testimony of a confirmed gang leader who has a history of misconduct and violence and is using this incident to seek a payday from the taxpayers of New York City. We will continue to support these men moving forward."
Related Topics:
rikers islandinmatesassaultcorrection officerNew York CityRikers Island
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