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$1.65 Million Settlement for Family of Prisoner Killed at Rikers Island

Casey Holloway was killed while in the mental health observation unit at the notorious Rikers Island Correctional Facility. Artemio Rosa, another prisoner with a history of violence, strangled the 35-year-old Holloway as he sat in a chair. Holloway was in jail facing robbery charges when Rosa decided to strangle him. According to records, a guard was able to pull Rosa off of Holloway, who was asthmatic, and struggled to breath. Holloway then collapsed to the floor and died.

In September 2019, Holloway’s family brought a lawsuit alleging that the City of New York failed to protect him from harm. In that suit the family alleged that Artemio Rosa should not have been in the same unit as Holloway. Because of his history and propensity for violence, the family stated Rosa should have been in the Program to Accelerate Clinical Effectiveness (PACE), and by not placing Rosa in that unit the City of New York was negligent. Rosa had assaulted numerous other prisoners before killing Holloway.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in early 2016, recognized the need for more PACE units inside the New York City jail. The goal was to have 12 of the much-needed units by the end of 2020. The administration came up short by two. These units provide much needed daily counseling and numerous programs for prisoners, as well as more intense medical care and mental health observation units.

The lawsuit alleged that Rosa, along with “nearly all” prisoners with serious mental health issues, were left in inadequate mental health observations units. Out of 5,336 prisoners in the city jails, 814 were people with serious mental illness. PACE units are only able to take care of 207 patients, leaving those with a history of violence in units where they should not be, according to Jeanette Merrill, a spokesperson for the city’s Correctional Health Services, which oversees medical care for the people behind bars.

The family in the lawsuit argued that if Rosa was placed in the housing unit where he belonged, Holloway would still be alive. The city seemed to agree as they conceded to settle the lawsuit for $1.65 million.

The plaintiff’s attorneys, Kelner and Kelner, were entitled to $550,000 for legal fees, and $1,819.66 in reimbursements. The remainder goes to the estate of Casey Holloway. Rosa was found guilty of the death and sentenced to 8 years in prison, while the Holloway family was left to mourn the death of their loved one. See: Sheila Holloway v. City of New York, USDC, SDNY, Case No.19-cv-8344. 

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Related legal case

Sheila Holloway v. City of New York