By Katie Reilly
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former New York City prison guard was indicted on Friday on charges that he lied about taking action while a Rikers Island inmate convulsed in a fatal seizure, marking the latest in a string of arrests of city correctional officers.
Wickenson DeMaitre, 47, is accused of standing by in the early morning hours of Oct. 1, 2014, while other inmates assisted Victor Woods, the prisoner in medical distress, until emergency personnel arrived.
An inmate initially reported Woods' condition at 4 a.m. to an officer who contacted medical personnel. When DeMaitre later walked over, he took no action to call medical staff or offer assistance, according to the Bronx County district attorney.
In a subsequent report, DeMaitre claimed he was the first to notify the medical response team but a video showed he took no action, the district attorney said in a press release.
Officers are required to call for medical assistance for an inmate but are not required to administer aid, according to the City of New York Department of Investigation.
DeMaitre, who was fired in October 2014, pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of offering a false instrument, falsifying business records and official misconduct. If convicted, DeMaitre faces up to four years in prison.
His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
"Correction officers who intentionally misrepresent the
facts manipulate the official record and the city’s ability to get at the truth," Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement. "These breaches of trust are serious and contribute to the larger problems in the city’s jail system, as this criminal investigation demonstrates."
DeMaitre is the sixth corrections employee to be arrested this month as part of a larger investigation into violence and contraband struggling within the correctional system, according to the Department of Investigation. More than 20 correction officers and three dozen inmates have been arrested, the department said.
Rikers Island, a sprawling prison complex in New York's East River, houses thousands of prisoners awaiting trial or sentenced to terms of a year or less. It has come under scrutiny in recent years due to claims of inhumane treatment and excessive use of force against inmates.
Woods, 53, was pronounced dead about an hour after his condition was first reported. A medical examiner ruled he died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage due to peptic ulcer disease.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Trott)