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Second Circuit Upholds New York Prison Guards’ Federal Criminal Convictions for Assaulting Prisoner

When prisoners Kevin Moore and Tyron Hollmond arrived at New York’s Downstate Correctional Facility, they were told they would have to be housed in the Forensic Diagnostic Unit, an area normally holding prisoners with mental health issues, due to a shortage of general population housing.

Hollmond refused to go to his cell and asked escorting guard Donald Cosman to call his supervisor. Cosman, who was already accompanied by guards Andrew Lowery, Ajamien Gamble, Jonathan Rosario and Robert Brown, radioed his supervisor, Kathy Scott, for assistance. This resulted in a response by Scott and guards George Santiago, Jr., Carson Morris, and a probationary guard. Hollmond eventually agreed to enter the cell.

However, Moore was agitated and worried that being housed there would change his mental health status in the prison records. When he started arguing with Morris, Morris responded by punching him in the chest such that he fell backward. Santiago quickly grabbed Moore from behind and forced him to the ground, then several guards held Moore down while Scott told Lowery to get the probationary officer out of the area.

The other guards beat Moore for two to four minutes. During the beating, Moore was face down on the ground and Scott handcuffed his right arm while Rosario held his legs, Cosman ripped a dreadlock from Moore’s head while Morris repeatedly kneed the left side of his abdomen.

Moore did not resist the beating. Nonetheless, Scott ordered Lowery to restrain him in a figure-four leg hold that prevented Moore from defending himself. Then Santiago kicked his right side and right eye and continued punching him. Cosman also kicked him.

Moore pleaded for them to stop, but the beating continued and Santiago asked him, “Who’s the monster now?” Moore suffered multiple fractures to the cheekbones and right eye socket, five fractured ribs, and a collapsed lung. He spent two weeks in hospitals.

Scott, Santiago and other guards tried to cover up the assault, They had Cosman lift his shirt and hit him several times with a baton so Scott could photograph the bruises as evidence that Moore initiated the violence. Morris rubbed the injury to make it look worse. Scott told Santiago, Morris, and Cosman to fill out false initial use-of-force documentation depicting Moore as the aggressor. They repeated the false story in subsequent use-of-force reports. Scott also filed a false injury report stating only she, Santiago, Cosman and Morris were witnesses to the assault.

Scott and Santiago were charged with depriving Moore of his civil rights and conspiracy to do so and falsifying of records and conspiracy to do so in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 241, 242, 371 and 1519. Following a two-week jury charge, they were convicted on all four counts. Aided by White Plains attorney Richard D. Willstatter of Green & Willstatter and Scarsdale attorney Daniel A. Hochheiser, they appealed.

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Related legal case

United States v. Scott