New York City officials have agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a Rikers Island inmate who was allegedly beaten to death by corrections officers, a city spokesman announced Monday.
The city also announced Monday that its Department of Investigation had started reviewing 129 cases of reported prisoner abuse by guards. The review comes a week after a New York Times report based on documents from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that showed rampant inmate abuse.
A spokesman for the city's Law Department confirmed the settlement with the estate of Ronald Spear, 52, who died in December 2012 at the New York City jail.
In a federal lawsuit filed last year in Manhattan, Spear's father claimed his son was assaulted for complaining that his medical care at the jail was inadequate.
The settlement was first reported Monday in an article by The New York Times.
A broad investigation into violence and other criminal conduct has led to the arrest of more than a dozen officers at the much-criticized jail complex in recent months.
In March an officer was charged with depriving a mentally ill inmate of medical aid after the inmate swallowed a corrosive disinfectant. The inmate eventually died. Another convict who suffered from schizophrenia died in an overheated cell earlier this year. His family has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the city.
Spear, who was arrested for burglary in September 2012, suffered from chronic kidney disease and required a cane, according to the lawsuit. In late 2012 he filed a lawsuit against the city's Department of Corrections, claiming he had been denied medical care and that officers were retaliating against him for his complaints. He died two weeks later.
His family's separate lawsuit claimed three officers held him down and kicked him multiple times in the head while inmates looked on. The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide, citing "blunt force trauma to the head" as a contributing factor, according to the lawsuit.
The proposed settlement was to be filed Monday in federal court in Manhattan, where it will require a judge's approval. The city will not admit liability as part of the agreement.
"This was a tragic incident," Muriel Goode-Trufant, a lawyer for the city, said in a statement. "It is hoped that this resolution brings some small measure of closure for the family."
Lawyers for the family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The New York Times quoted a spokesman of the Corrections Department as saying that one officer had been fired and others faced disciplinary charges over the incident.
The Bronx district attorney's office investigated the incident but concluded it could not prove criminal charges against the officers beyond a reasonable doubt, according to a spokesman who was also quoted by the Times.
In March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed former Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte to head New York City’s response to the problems at its jails. Ponte has since instituted new security policies designed to prevent violence and ordered a review of training and safety protocols.
Al Jazeera and Reuters