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Five correction officers brutally assaulted an inmate almost to death, ripped out his dreadlocks to use as “trophy” at the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, New York and then conspired to cover the incident up, federal prosecutors allege.
Three of them were arrested on Wednesday while two have already pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the prosecutors.
Federal civil rights charges, announced by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara on Wednesday, originated from the Nov. 12, 2013, beating of a 56-year-old black man by five correction officers.
Kevin Moore was supposed to be held at the detention facility only overnight and was scheduled to be taken to the New York City court the next day for his hearing. Instead, the officers assigned to him — Kathy Scott, George Santiago Jr., Carson Morris, Donald Cosman and Andrew Lowery — decided to put him in the mental health unit.
Fearing the records would portray him as a “monster,” Moore argued he had no mental issues. That’s when the officers reportedly grabbed him and threw him to the ground even though he had not physically threatened any of them.
The officers then allegedly punched and kicked him all over his body, even in the most vulnerable places, and beat him up with their wooden batons. When the beating was finished, they reportedly hauled Moore from the ground “where he was lying in a pool of his own blood.” Moore had several facial fractures, broken ribs and a collapsed lung, but instead of taking him to a hospital, the sadistic officers threw him into solitary confinement, prosecutors say. One is even accused of keeping a clump of dreadlocks ripped from Moore's head during the beating as a “trophy” for his motorcycle.
The officers then allegedly started to fabricate a story that could justify Moore’s beating, even hitting Morris with a baton to look as if he had been attacked by Moore. He then rubbed the area to make the injury look more severe. Scott took photos of the phony injuries and they wrote a report full of lies, the feds allege.
The next morning, the correction officers took Moore to the Rikers Island jail complex but supervisors were so shocked by his condition, they took him to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he received treatment for 17 days. There, investigators from New York City’s Correction Department took note of Moore’s account and sent the information to state investigators.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Scott, Santiago and Morris were all charged with conspiracy to deprive civil rights, deprivation of rights under color of law, conspiracy to falsify records, and falsifying records.
Cosman, Morris and Lowery resigned later on. However, Scott and Santiago, who were fired in September 2014, filed a lawsuit claiming they had been terminated on the basis of being minorities — Santiago is Hispanic and Scott is a white woman. They agreed to suspend their suit until all investigations by the FBI have been completed.
“Inmates may be walled off from the public, but they are not walled off from the Constitution,” U.S. Attorney Bharara said. “And when correction officers viciously beat an inmate in their charge, then collude among themselves to cover it up … they trample on the Constitution and the very laws they have sworn to uphold.”
“This announcement sends a strong message that we will pursue anyone that fails to uphold the integrity and professionalism that we place in our department,” said Corrections Commissioner Anthony Annucci.
James Miller, spokesman for the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, said Bharara’s announcement was “unfortunate” and “certainly not indicative of the brave and honorable men and women who are the overwhelming majority of our corrections officers.”