5 Rikers Guards Found Guilty in Beating of Inmate in 2012

The attack began after Jamal Lightfoot allegedly stared down the jail's assistant chief of security during an inmate search

Five of 10 Rikers Island correction officers on trial have been found guilty in the beating of an inmate who stared down a jail official, according to the Bronx district attorney's office.

Five of the guards were found guilty of all charges in the beating of Jamal Lightfoot, who suffered broken teeth and eye sockets and a nose fracture in the 2012 attack. A sixth correction officer was acquitted of all charges.

The DA's office initially said the sixth officer had been convicted on lesser charges but later issued a correction saying he had been acquitted. 

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 are accused of aiding in a cover-up.

The group was suspended from the force after they were arrested but the Daily News reported Tuesday that seven of the officers were reinstated with pay on Feb. 8.

The judge presiding over the case signed a gag order in February prohibiting lawyers in the case from commenting.

In a statement Tuesday, Norman Seabrook, president of the union that represents rank-and-file correction officers, said the verdict is unfair and unjust.

"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.

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.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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