New York City reaches $450,000 settlement in suit over Rikers beating

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 03, 2015 1:01 PM

By Katie Reilly

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a civil lawsuit brought by a former Rikers Island inmate who was hog-tied and brutally beaten by correctional officers while in solitary confinement in 2012, city officials said.

Robert Hinton, 27, was an inmate at New York City's Rikers Island when he suffered facial injuries and a back fracture in the beating, part of which was captured by prison surveillance cameras.

Hinton was resisting being transferred to a new cell when he was beaten while handcuffed, according to court documents.

"Resolving this litigation was in the City's best interest," a spokesman for the city's Law Department said in a statement on Thursday.

Nicole Bellina, Hinton's attorney, said he is not expecting any further action and it would be up to the Bronx district attorney to press criminal charges against the officers.

"We are satisfied that Robert got his day in court, and Robert now hopes to move on with his life," she said on Thursday.

"I think that the surveillance video is what brought this case as far as it went."

The $450,000 settlement was announced on Wednesday.

Rikers Island, which can house as many as 15,000 inmates in 10 jails, has come under scrutiny in recent years due to claims of inhumane treatment of inmates and the excessive use of solitary confinement.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed in June to carry out reforms at the prison complex in a deal that includes installing more surveillance cameras and appointing a federal monitor to oversee the changes.

Joseph Ponte, the city's corrections commissioner, fired the captain and five correctional officers who were involved in the incident in January following a judge's recommendation.

The officers said they had uncuffed Hinton and that Hinton had kicked one and put another in a chokehold, but last September a judge said she did not believe those claims and found them guilty of misconduct.

The officers' lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

"While the vast majority of Correction Officers perform their duties with the highest level of integrity, my decision to terminate the Captain and Officers in this case made clear that there is zero tolerance for mistreatment of inmates at DOC," Ponte said in a statement on Wednesday.

Ponte said the department had increased mental health and anti-violence training to promote a culture of safety.