One day after The New Yorker published horrific new video of teenage Rikers Island inmate Kalief Browder being beaten by a corrections officer and other inmates, Browder's lawyer spoke to HuffPost Live to react to the unsettling footage.
Browder was only 16 when he was arrested on the way home from a party in 2010. He was held without a conviction for more than two years, during which time he said he spent more than 400 days in solitary confinement. He was eventually released without ever facing charges. During an interview with HuffPost Live in 2013, shortly after his release, Browder said officers "starved" him by withholding meals as punishment.
Browder's lawyer Paul V. Prestia joined HuffPost Live's Marc Lamont Hill on Friday to discuss the disturbing new footage released this week. In one part of the video, Browder is seen being escorted by a corrections officer to the shower when the officer slams a handcuffed Browder to the ground. Prestia said the officer "falsified" his report on the incident, in which he stated Browder tried to flee. The lawyer said:
What Kalief explained to me [that] happened in this case is ... he had some sort of verbal dispute with this officer a couple weeks back. Earlier that morning, about three hours before he came at that time to take him to the shower, this officer basically said something to Kalief in his cell, something to the effect of, "I'm going to beat you in the shower today." So Kalief maybe thought something of that. But as you can see from the video, it's pretty egregious. This officer is pumping himself up in front of that cell. He was looking for a fight that day.
Another portion of the new video shows Browder being beaten by a group of allegedly gang-affiliated inmates. The physical altercation came, according to Prestia, after one of those inmates spit on Browder, who punched him in response. A group scuffle quickly followed, and the video shows two corrections officers attempting to fend off more than eight attackers.
"As you can see, Kalief was pretty much on his own here, because no one's there in his defense," Prestia said as he watched the footage.
As far as Browder's attorney knows, the officer who abused Browder during the walk to the shower has faced "no disciplinary action whatsoever" for the "pattern of physical and mental abuse."
"Abuse ... is a euphemism for what it really was," Prestia said. "He was tortured."
The City Correction Department told The Huffington Post on Thursday that it is investigating the incidents, which occurred before Commissioner Joseph Ponte's arrival. "Safety for staff and inmates is Commissioner Ponte's top priority," a spokeswoman said.