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Sunday, October 23, 2011

NY correction officers plead guilty in teen death

NY correction officers plead guilty in teen death

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Two city Department of Correction officers pleaded guilty Friday to their roles in the beating death of a teenager at the hands of a brutal squad of inmates known as The Team.

Under the terms of the deal, Michael McKie and Khalid Nelson were spared lengthy prison sentences in exchange for guilty pleas to charges of assault and attempted assault, respectively, in the death of Christopher Robinson.

The officers worked in one of 10 jails that make up the sprawling correctional system on the 400-acre Rikers Island, which sits in the East River between Queens and the Bronx. Bronx prosecutors said the officers presided over a "Lord of the Flies"-style crew of inmates who enforced rules in one of the housing units through a campaign of bullying, intimidation and violence known as The Program.

Robinson, who was 18, had been sent to the jail after a parole violation. He was beaten to death by the inmates on Oct. 18, 2008, after he dared to defy the squad's authority, prosecutors said.

McKie, 33, faces two years in prison. Nelson, 37, will be sentenced to one year in jail. They had been accused of enterprise corruption and other charges and faced up to 50 years behind bars. They have been fired from the Department of Correction.

The victim's mother, Charnel Robinson, said Friday the guilty pleas helped restore some of her shattered faith in the criminal justice system.

"I can't say I have closure, because it is very hard for me to come to terms with the fact that my only child is deceased," she said. "But I'm very grateful, and I have a newfound respect for the system, after my son was brutally murdered in the care of the state."

Robinson said the pleas give her strength. Her attorney Sanford Rubenstein said a civil lawsuit against the city is now moving forward.

"Let these guilty pleas send a message to correction officers throughout this country that if you are involved in a scheme which results in the wrongful death of an inmate you will go to jail," he said.

Following the teen's death, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law that requires the correction department, which runs the city's jails, to publicly disclose statistics on violence against incarcerated teens, whether committed by staff or by other inmates. The law is meant to help expose possible violence in city facilities that house adolescent inmates.

The Rikers Island complex holds about 13,000 people per day. Inmates are separated according to age, but teenagers charged as adults and between the ages of 16 and 18 are housed there.

The Department of Correction issued a statement saying it holds its workforce to the highest standards of professionalism.

"The unlawful actions of the very few should not undercut the daily contributions of the city's 8,500 uniformed men and women who perform their duties with excellence," the statement read.

McKie and Nelson will be sentenced Jan. 17. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said there was no evidence to link the officers to Robinson's death despite their link to The Program.

"The behavior of the correction officers was worse than that of some of the young detainees under their supervision," he said. "What is most disturbing, however, is that his conduct turned a detention facility for adolescents into an incubator for violent criminal activity sanctioned by adults."

Cases are pending for a third former officer and seven inmates. Five inmates have pleaded guilty and were sentenced to additional prison terms.

—Copyright 2011 Associated Press

Comment: I think the plea deal of reducing sentences down from 50 years to 2 years and 1 year respectively stinks to high heaven! A reduction in sentence for an early guilty plea yes, let off with a slap on the wrists no!

1 comment:

Darby said...

Yes John.

The Mothers words are quite unbelievable. They seem to have become mixed-up with the thoughts of the guaranteed compensation coming her way.

The sentence itself, is just another clear example - of a very murky system.