by Christopher Zoukis
On October 30, 2012, several guards at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City used batons to beat handcuffed prisoner Gabino Genao, 31, into unconsciousness. In the wake of that incident, guards Moises Simancas, April Jackson and Tyrone Wint resigned, pleaded guilty to criminal charges and were sentenced to terms of probation. [See: PLN, July 2015, p.1].
Genao filed suit in federal court, claiming civil rights violations. He settled the case in June 2017 for $165,000, but won’t receive any of the settlement funds.
That’s because Genao is currently jailed on a completely unrelated matter – he is accused of shooting his estranged wife to death. The City of New York agreed to settle the lawsuit on the condition that the money go to Genao’s three daughters and not him. Half the settlement will be paid to the two daughters whose mother he allegedly murdered, while the remainder will go to a daughter from a previous relationship.
“The city settled this litigation on the express condition that the children receive all the proceeds from the settlement, a fair resolution that takes into account the unique circumstances of the case,” said New York City Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci. See: Genao v. City of New York, U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY), Case No. 2:14-cv-08122-AT.
Genao’s situation may be unique, but his brutal beating at the hands of Rikers Island guards was not. Attorneys Jonathan S. Abady and Jonathan S. Chasan made that point in the suit filed on Genao’s behalf. According to their complaint, the beating of detainees continues to be a regular occurrence at Rikers, as is the routine cover-up. Court pleadings in the case cited investigations by multiple agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, which found the jail complex is imbued with a “culture of violence” where excessive use of force by guards and assaults are all too common.
That high level of violence extends to prisoner-on-staff assaults, too. In February 2018, a jailer at the George Motchan Detention Center on Rikers Island was severely beaten by a group of six prisoners. Guard Jean Roston Souffrant, 39, suffered a fractured spine. Another guard who was present during the incident did not immediately try to intervene. And in March 2018, a prisoner threw hot water on a Rikers guard and struck him in the face, breaking his nose; that same month, another guard was slashed across the face.
In some cases the violence may be a vicious cycle, with guards beating prisoners who disrespect or assault them, and prisoners doing the same to jail staff in return.
Additional sources: www.nydailynews.com, New York Post
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Related legal case
Genao v. City of New York
|U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY), Case No. 2:14-cv-08122-AT