An administrative law judge in New York has taken the extraordinary step of recommending that six corrections officers at Rikers Island prison be fired for dragging, hog-tying and brutalizing a mentally ill African-American inmate.
On April 3, 2012, officers moved Robert Hinton, who was living in isolation in Mental Health Assessment Unit for Infracted Inmates, to a new cell. Officers punched and struck him after he was moved and then falsely reported what had occurred. They engaged in a conspiracy to cover up their violence.
Tynia D. Richard, who works in the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, issued a ruling on September 25 on the role officers played in attacking Hinton and what consequences the officers should face for their actions.
“This case appears to combine some of the worst aspects of the use of force cases: a coordinated effort to enter an inmate’s cell, serious physical injury, an attempted cover-up, and a lack of provocation by the inmate,” Richard writes in her decision. “Moreover, the detachment of the officers involved before, during, and after the assault, as depicted in the video, is striking evidence that such violence is acceptable to them.
“This conduct and attitude cannot be tolerated in a Department whose mission it is to provide care, custody and control. Individuals who themselves are out of control cannot be made the overlords of any group of inmates.”
Captain Budnarine Bahari and corrections officers, Geronimo Almanzar and Vincent Siederman, were all found to have used “unnecessary, impermissible and excessive force against an inmate.” Correction officers Paul Bunton, Raul Marquez and Ramon Cabrera were all found to have “observed and failed to report such force.”
Hinton’s medical records show he suffered “multiple blunt trauma to the face.” His injuries included a “closed nasal bone fracture,” with his nose “broken and tilted to the right.” There was “swelling and bleeding from the nose,” a “laceration to his left eye with peri-orbital swelling and edema.” He had “cuts and swelling of the upper and lower lips and bleeding from the mouth.” He also suffered a “fracture of the L3 transverse process in his lower back, c-spine tenderness and a closed head injury.”
Hinton did not want to walk to the unit where he was being moved, but regulations state that “under no circumstances will an inmate be dragged during an escort.” Officers are to get a gurney to carry inmates to their cells. But the officers instead carried Hinton in a dehumanizing hogtying manner to his new unit.
The officers suspended Hilton and “tightly clasped” his arms and legs behind him. His attorney characterized this as carrying Hinton “like a pig on a stick.”
Officers insisted it was unfair to accuse them of hog-tying Hilton, which is force that is explicitly prohibited. According to the judge, “Hinton not only had his hands tied together behind his back and his feet tied together, but also his feet were elevated behind his back and near his hands so that his body was in a backbend.”
Hinton maintains in his account of what happened that Behari said to him, “You are gonna get what you deserve today; you think you run this shit.” He chose to resist the move when Behari said, “We are gonna fuck you up today. I don’t give a fuck what you talking about.” He sat down on the floor and chose not to cooperate because he “knew what they were going to try to do.”
From the ruling: