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Rikers Officer Who Kicked Inmate to Death Convicted of Rights Violation

By Kathleen Culliton | December 15, 2016 3:08pm
 A New York City Department of Corrections bus leaves Rikers Island on Monday June 18th, 2012.
A New York City Department of Corrections bus leaves Rikers Island on Monday June 18th, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Theodore Parisienne

MANHATTAN — A Rikers Island correction officer who repeatedly kicked a sick inmate in the head was found guilty of ultimately causing his death, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Correction Officer Brian Coll, 47, attacked Ronald Spear, a 52-year-old who walked with a cane, after the inmate had been restrained by other officers and was lying on the infirmary floor on Dec. 19, 2012, according to federal prosecutors.

After Coll kicked Spear in the in the skull several times, he picked up the man’s head, said, “that’s what you get for f---ing with me,” then smashed his head against the floor, prosecutors charged.

Coll also said, "Remember I'm the one that did this to you," court records show. 

Spear — who suffered from renal disease and required dialysis — suffered contusions to the skull and bleeding in the brain and later died from his injuries and weakened condition, court records show.

Coll and his fellow correction officers then covered up the beating by falsely claiming to Department of Correction investigators and federal prosecutors that Spear had attacked Coll with his cane, according to charges.

Two officers who helped Coll in his cover-up — Byron Taylor, 32, and Anthony Torres, 60 — both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice in September and face up to 25 years in prison.

Coll faces a life in prison after his conviction for depriving Spear of his civil rights and obstruction of justice, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

“Coll killed Spear by repeatedly kicking him in the head as he lay restrained on the ground, telling him before he died not to forget who did this to him,” said Bharara.  

“The FBI investigators and career prosecutors on this case did not forget.  And today, neither did the jury.”

Coll’s attorney Sam Schmidt expressed disappointment in the conviction and said it was based on weak scientific evidence.

“The medical and scientific evidence clearly demonstrated that the government could not prove the death of Mr. Spears resulted from any conduct by Mr. Coll.”