Rikers Island Guards Who Oversaw Violent Jail Racket Get Short Sentences

By Patrick Wall on January 17, 2012 8:11pm 

FILE - In this Dec. 15, 1980 file photo, New York City's Rikers Island prison is seen from the air.
FILE - In this Dec. 15, 1980 file photo, New York City's Rikers Island prison is seen from the air.
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AP Photo/David Pickoff

BRONX – Two former Rikers Island guards who faced 25 years behind bars on charges they ran a jailhouse extortion racket that left a teen inmate dead were sentenced Tuesday to terms that will let one of the men out of prison in just three months.

Michael McKie, 33, was sentenced to two years in prison and Khalid Nelson, 37, got a year in jail. McKie, of Brooklyn, has already served 21 months of his two-year sentence.

The former correction officers, who struck plea deals, were suspected of managing an illicit operation known as "The Program,” in which juvenile inmates were authorized to violently keep order in the adolescent detention facility. The hand-picked teen enforcers coerced other inmates into handing over money, phone time and even shoes.

The enforcers beat inmates who refused to participate in The Program, prosecutors said. The officers granted enforcers access to off-limits areas of the housing unit where they attacked the unsuspecting inmates.

"This conduct turned a detention facility for adolescents into an incubator for violent criminal activity sanctioned by adults in positions of authority," Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said when the correction officers were indicted in 2009.

In 2008, 18-year-old inmate Christopher Robinson was found dead in his cell after a brutal beating.  His death prompted an investigation that uncovered the inmate-enforcer program.  Indictments followed against three correction officers and 12 young inmates on charges ranging from manslaughter, conspiracy and enterprise corruption.

In October, McKie pleaded guilty to a 2008 assault on an inmate. Nelson, of Staten Island, pleaded guilty to attempted assault. 

Five inmates have also pleaded guilty.  Charges are pending against the third officer and the remaining seven inmates.

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