Six of the eight Rikers Island correction officers found guilty of crimes relating to the beating of an inmate who stared down a jail official were sentenced to prison terms on Friday.
It comes more than four years after the beating of Jamal Lightfoot, who suffered broken teeth and eye sockets and a nose fracture while being held at the beleauguered jail complex.
Chief Elsio Perez received the harshest sentence; he'll spend the next 6 1/2 years behind bars. Captain Gerald Vaughn received a 5 1/2-year prison sentence, and four other guards will serve 4 1/2 years in prison. The remaining two correction officers found guilty in the 2012 beating were released, but must complete 500 hours of community service for official misconduct.
The guards were found guilty in the attack in June. Prosecutors said the attack 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 the jail's assistant chief of security. Angered by the stare-down, the assistant chief shouted to a captain and five officers Lightfoot "thinks he's tough" and should be attacked, Bronx prosecutors said.
The assistant chief, a captain and eight other officers were later charged in a 53-count indictment that includes attempted gang assault, evidence tampering and other charges.
Prosecutors had alleged 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 were accused of aiding in a cover-up.
The group was suspended from the force after they were arrested but the Daily News reported that seven of the officers were reinstated with pay on Feb. 8.
New York City Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte said he had "zero tolerance for any illegal behavior on the part of staff" and that officers convicted of felonies would be terminated. He said he's confident the department is taking the right step toward reforming Rikers.
The trial came amid ever-increasing scrutiny on the city's jail system. NBC 4 New York's I-Team uncovered accounts from visitors who were strip-searched, and it was recently reported that a woman who was later acquitted of charges was forced to spend two years in solitary confinement. Politicians had also suggested closing the jail complex earlier this year.