New York City has agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit that was filed by the family of a Rikers Island inmate who was allegedly beaten to death in December 2012 by corrections officers.
Along with the lawsuit that was settled before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan, the city also announced that the city’s Department of Investigation had started reviewing 129 cases of inmates who were allegedly and seriously abused by correctionS officers and guards at the facility. These cases occurred over the course of 11 months in 2013.
The inmate, Ronald Spear, 52, was arrested for burglary in September 2012. He had chronic kidney disease, walked with a cane and required regular dialysis treatment for kidney disease, the lawsuit said. He made several complaints that doctors and corrections officers weren’t giving him adequate medical care at the facility.
Two weeks before he died, in early December 2012, he filed his own lawsuit against the city’s Department of Corrections and argued that he had been denied medical medication and that the officers were retaliating against his complaints. Following his death, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the cause of his death was a homicide. They said the “blunt force trauma to the head” was a contributing factor to his death, according to the lawsuit.
Although the case was being handled by the Bronx district attorney’s office, they declined to pursue criminal charges against the correction officers who allegedly beat Spear. A spokeswoman at the office told The New York Times (which first reported the settlement), “The Bronx D.A.’s office did a full investigation of the case and determined it couldn’t prove criminal responsibility on the officers’ behalf beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Lawyers representing the family argued that the Bronx D.A.’s office was moving slow on the case. This promoted them to take the case to the federal court in Manhattan.
After the federal court settlement on Monday, Jonathan S. Chasan, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, which represented the family, told The New York Times that the case is “yet another example of the persistent problem of excessive force in the New York City jails, a problem that has not been adequately addressed or remediated.”