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5 Correction Officers Convicted of Assault in Beating of Rikers Inmate

By Eddie Small | June 8, 2016 11:10am
 Five correction officers were convicted of attempted assault on Tuesday in the 2012 beating of Rikers inmate Jahmal Lightfoot.
Five correction officers were convicted of attempted assault on Tuesday in the 2012 beating of Rikers inmate Jahmal Lightfoot.
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Getty/Spencer Platt

RIKERS ISLAND — Five correction officers were convicted of attempted gang assault on Tuesday in the brutal 2012 beating of an inmate at the city jail.

Officers Eliseo Perez Jr., Alfred Rivera, Tobias Parker, Jose Parra and David Rodriguez were all found guilty of attempted gang assault and attempted assault following a three-month jury trial.

“A Bronx jury has sent a clear message that a uniform and a badge does not absolve anyone from committing a crime, and that even a criminal behind bars deserves to be treated like a human being," Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said in a statement.

Perez, the former assistant chief for security, was overseeing a search of the jail on July 11, 2012, when he ordered members of the Emergency Services Unit to assault Lightfoot, according to trial testimony.

Lightfoot and Perez made eye contact, and Perez said, "This guy thinks he's tough. When you get him to the intake area, take him to a separate pen and knock his ------ teeth out," according to testimony.

The other four convicted officers attacked Lightfoot soon after in a search pen with no video cameras, where they kicked him in the head and caused multiple fractures to his face, the Bronx DA's office said.

The officers claimed that Lightfoot attacked Rivera with a sharp piece of metal and that they used force to restrain him. They also were convicted of falsifying Department of Correction Use of Force reports, according to the Bronx DA's office.

Another officer charged in the crime, Jeffrey Richard, was acquitted of charges related to the beating's cover-up. And Capt. Gerald Vaughn and Correction Officers Harmon Frierson and Dwayne Maynard, who were also indicted, are awaiting their verdict from a bench trial.

Clark has made reforming Rikers one of her top priorities since taking over the Bronx DA's Office and she has worked on several prosecutions focused on disrupting the flow of contraband into the jail in joint operations with the Department of Investigation, which also worked on the Lightfoot investigation.

"Today’s convictions make a strong statement: savagely beating an inmate will not be tolerated in the city's jails," DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said.

Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook, who was arrested on fraud and corruption charges Wednesday morning, described the convictions in a statement as "an absolute travesty" that showed how correction officers are disrespected for doing their jobs.

"We wonder if it is even possible for these officers to receive a fair trial given that the powers that be regularly use correction officers as a scapegoat for decades of mismanagement at Rikers," he said.

The DOC stressed that the beating happened before Commissioner Joseph Ponte's tenure and that he had dramatically increased staffing at the agency's division responsible for employee discipline since taking over.

"The vast majority of our officers carry out their duties with care and integrity," Ponte said. "We are taking many steps to ensure that all staff adhere to the highest professionalism."

The convicted officers are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 6, and face a maximum of 15 years in prison.