I-Team: Rikers Guard Under Investigation Over Sex Assault Allegation, Facebook Posts - NBC New York
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I-Team: Rikers Guard Under Investigation Over Sex Assault Allegation, Facebook Posts

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    He says a guard retaliated against him after he stood up for another inmate who was being verbally abused. Sarah Wallace reports. (Published Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016)

    What to Know

    • Michael Sinacore is under investigation after an inmate filed a $6 million lawsuit and after a series of posts to Facebook.

    • Justin Kuchma alleges that the guard grabbed his genitals after he spoke up about Sinacore using a racial slur.

    • In Facebook posts under Sinacore's profile, someone called guards the "wrecking crew" and talked about "the look of fear" in inmates' eyes.

    A Rikers Island correction officer accused in a lawsuit of grabbing an inmate’s genitals is now also under investigation for social media posts where he called himself and other guards "the wrecking crew" and wrote about "that look of fear" in "gangsters eyes," the I-Team has learned.

    A Department of Correction source told the I-Team that correction officer Michael Sinacore has been reassigned to an area where he has no inmate contact in light of the posts and a $6 million lawsuit filed by 31-year-old Justin Kuchma following an altercation at a jail facility earlier this year. Both matters are under investigation, the DOC said.

    Kuchma told the I-Team in an exclusive jailhouse interview that Sinacore grabbed his genitals and kicked him after he criticized the guard at a Rikers Island jail on May 29. The restaurant consultant said that the attacks stemmed from him calling out Sinacore -- who is white -- for allegedly using racial slurs while talking to a black inmate.

    "He goes in on him, starts calling him the N-word, names beyond belief," he said.

    Kuchma told the I-Team that hours after that exchange, Sinacore grabbed him in a hallway while other officers stood by and did nothing.

    "He grabs me by my collar, throws me face first against the wall, starts kicking my shins," he said. "He's grabbing my genitals."

    Kuchma, who lives in Manhattan, said the officer directed several slurs at him and later threatened him.

    "(He said), 'You know, don’t worry, I know where there are no cameras, I’ll get you again,'" Kuchma said.

    Kuchma’s attorneys have filed a $6 million dollar notice of claim, accusing the Correction Department of failing to take immediate action and separate the inmate from his alleged abuser. The Department said all reports of sexual assault and abuse are investigated thoroughly and expeditiously.

    The Department of Investigation, meanwhile, said that it is investigating a number of cases involving allegations of sexual abuse at city jails.

    "DOI has identified this area as one of concern that will be the subject of additional scrutiny," a spokesperson said.

    A separate Correction Department investigation was also launched after social media comments and photos were later posted on Sinacore’s accounts.

    In one photo, Sinacore and other OCCB officers are seen in riot gear. Sinacore called them, "The Wrecking Crew." In another now-deleted Facebook comment on a post by another guard, Sinacore talked about "the look of fear" that was put into inmates' eyes.

    "Me and you know both how many REAL tough mother f------ there were and are left," the comment stated. "And we both know that look of fear that was put into these b---- a-- gangsters eyes when things were in order."

    The DOC said it has a strict social media policy that requires that employees who identify themselves by rank, title, work location, uniform or any other means, must make it clear through the use of a disclaimer that their statements and views do not reflect the views of the Department. Otherwise, such statements may be interpreted as official statements by the DOC.

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