NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP)– Several New York jail guards will face trial after accusations of assaulting an inmate for staring down a correction department chief at Rikers Island.
The group of 10 correction officers appeared Wednesday at Bronx Supreme Court after being charged in a 53-count indictment that includes attempted gang assault. A trial is expected to start next week.
Authorities say the June 11, 2012, attack on Jahmal Lightfoot started after officers, responding to two slashings at the sprawling complex, began searching inmates, tossing over mattresses and rifling around cells for contraband.
During the search, Lightfoot made eye contact with Elsio Perez, the jail’s assistant chief of security. Angered by the stare-down, Bronx prosecutors say, Perez shouted out to a captain and five officers that Lightfoot “thinks he’s tough” and should be attacked.
Lightfoot was brought into a small cell and was pummeled so severely by five officers that he was left with two fractured eye sockets, a broken nose and injuries to his face that caused his eyes to swell shut, prosecutors said.
Perez, a captain and eight other officers are expected to face trial next week on a 53-count indictment that includes attempted gang assault, evidence tampering and other charges. A judge presiding over the case in the Bronx issued a gag order Wednesday prohibiting the attorneys in the case from commenting.
“I just want justice for my son,” Lightfoot’s mother, Margaret Burton, said after seeing the officers in court Wednesday.
Prosecutors allege that the officers cooked up a plan on how to explain Lightfoot’s injuries and wrote false use-of-force reports and witnesses statements that claimed Lightfoot had slashed an officer with a sharpened piece of metal. Three of the officers are accused of aiding in a cover-up.
Seven of the officers, who had been suspended after their arrests in 2013, were sent back to work earlier this month but remain on modified duty, a spokeswoman for the city’s correction department said. She said they would not have any contact with inmates.
The latest information comes just a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo made an announcement calling for the replacement of Rikers Island with a modern and safer jail. The push for changes at Rikers began in 2014 after reports by The Associated Press on dozens of deaths highlighted poor supervision, questionable medical care and failure to prevent suicides.
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