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Five Correction Officers Face Federal Charges In Inmate Beating

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Five former correction officers have been charged with beating an inmate and covering it up. The charges stem from an incident at the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, New York.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says the alleged beating took place in November 2013 when inmate Kevin Moore was to be held overnight at Downstate Correctional en route from another upstate facility to Rikers Island. Bharara says the 54-year-old Moore was told he would be held in cells designated for inmates with mental health issues and Moore became agitated at the news.

“We allege that in retaliation the charged correction officers struck Moore with wooden batons, punched him repeatedly in the face and ribs, kicked him in the head and in the groin, and even ripped dreadlocks off his head, one allegedly picking up the ripped dreadlocks from the floor saying he wanted to save them as a trophy,” Bharara said.

Bharara, announcing the charges Wednesday, alleges that the officers continued to beat the inmate, landing Moore in the hospital for 17 days. Bharara alleges a cover-up followed.

“To support the false story, the correction officers, we allege, went to great lengths. We allege that they took actually, they took a baton and struck another officer hard to make it look like it was the victim, Kevin Moore, who had inflicted the injury. That officer, by the way, is one of our cooperating witnesses,” says Bharara. “So a cruel and savage beating, followed by a shameless cover-up, that’s what we allege in the charges announced today.”

Bharara says two have pleaded guilty to the charged filed against them. All five are charged with federal civil rights crimes. James Miller is spokesman for the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association. He says the indictments are not indicative of the majority of correction officers.

“The alleged criminal actions of these former members is in no way condoned by NYSCOPBA and does not represent professionalism and dedication to keeping New Yorkers safe that is the hallmark of our 30,000 members,” Miller says.

In a statement, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci said, “These five individuals not only broke the trust placed in them by their fellow correction officers – they broke the law as well.  DOCCS has zero tolerance for any criminal activity involving staff or inmates within our facilities. 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.”

Again, Bharara.

“Inmates may be walled off from the public but they are not walled off from the Constitution,” Bharara says. “When correction officers viciously beat an inmate in their charge, when they collude among themselves to cover it up, as alleged here, they trample on the Constitution and the very laws they have sworn to uphold.”

Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady says it was apparent during his office’s investigation in the first several months of 2014 that key witnesses would not cooperate unless subpoenaed and forced to testify under oath in the grand jury.

“In other words, if a witness is forced to testify under subpoena, and it turns out that that person was one of the persons who was criminally responsible, immunity would attach and that person could not be prosecuted for the crime,” Grady says. “Obviously, such an option was not acceptable to us. This was really a horrific case, egregious conduct on the part of the participants, and we would pursue all available options to ensure that the appropriate people were held fully accountable.”

Grady says he then contacted Bharara’s office to take on the case as federal prosecutors do not have the same limitations. Bharara says he believes excessive use of force in prisons has reached crisis proportions in New York. Audio of Bharara is courtesy of The Poughkeepsie Journal.  

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