BLACK VOICES

Nine Guards Are On Trial For Brutal Beating Of Rikers Island Inmate

Three other guards helped conceal the crime by filing inaccurate reports stating that the inmate attacked first, authorities said.
A general view of the courtroom during the trial of nine Rikers Island prison staff accused of viciously beating a black inma
A general view of the courtroom during the trial of nine Rikers Island prison staff accused of viciously beating a black inmate, Jahmal Lightfoot in June 2012

Nine correction officers are to go on trial on Wednesday for the brutal beating of an inmate and a subsequent coverup at New York City's Rikers Island jail complex.

Prosecutors in the city's Bronx borough have accused 10 guards in the assault of Jahmal Lightfoot on July 11, 2012, who was left with two fractured eye sockets and a broken nose.

The former assistant chief for security, Eliseo Perez, and a captain, Gerald Vaughn, ordered five other officers to carry out the attack after Lightfoot stared at Perez during a screening for weapons, according to prosecutors.

Three other guards helped conceal the crime by filing inaccurate reports stating that Lightfoot attacked first, authorities said. One of the officers claimed he was slashed, and another officer later produced what he falsely claimed was the weapon Lightfoot used, according to prosecutors.

One of the 10 officers charged in the incident will be tried separately at a later date.

Rikers Island, which houses approximately 10,000 inmates and is one of the country's largest jail complexes, has been plagued for years by what critics say is a pervasive culture of abuse.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration has instituted a comprehensive plan to reduce violence at the jail by both inmates and officers, including better training, more cameras and updated use-of-force policies.

Some city and state officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, have floated the idea of closing Rikers permanently, a proposal that de Blasio has dismissed as unworkable.

The 30-year-old Lightfoot, who is expected to testify at trial, was released from prison in 2014 after serving a sentence for robbery. He has also filed a civil lawsuit against the city and the officers.

Lawyers in the criminal case have been ordered not to comment publicly about the trial.

 (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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