In agreeing to pay $250,000 to a woman who claimed she was raped repeatedly by a Correction Captain and several Correction Officers at Rikers Island on separate occasions in 2013 and 2014 and another $950,000 to her attorneys, the city Law Department issued a statement that began, “The safety and security of those entrusted to the care of [the Department of Correction] is a top priority.”
Not really, according to the Federal Judge, Alison Nathan, who had been hearing the case and wondered why the two correction employees who have been identified by name as among the woman’s assailants, now-retired Capt. Pablo Porter and Correction Officer Emma Williams, have not been criminally charged by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office.
The victim, identified as Jane Doe, alleged in her Federal lawsuit that after she was locked up for the first time in October 2013, she was taken to a room in an abandoned area of the Rose M. Singer Center, then stripped and handcuffed to a toilet and raped and forced to perform oral sex by Captain Porter and two unidentified COs. Hours later, she alleged she was taken to a housing unit by a female CO her court papers identified as Ms. Williams, who told her, “This never happened.” She allegedly added, “If it is being heard upstairs, things are going to be worse.”
Ms. Doe was later released but then arrested again on a new charge early in 2014. She alleged that she was sexually and physically assaulted over several days by two unidentified male COs and Ms. Williams.
Judge Nathan earlier this year alluded to a November 2016 report on jail policies that quoted a longtime Warden calling them inadequate for preventing the rape of inmates by officers. She wrote that “a reasonable juror could conclude that the failures to investigate and discipline officers accused of sexual assault that are described in the Ryan Report caused Defendants Porter and Williams to determine that they would not be investigated or punished for participating in the sexual assault of Doe.”
She cited a passage from the Ryan Report noting that no allegations of sexual assault at the Singer Center were substantiated against COs between 2011 and 2013 despite U.S. Justice Department data showing that female inmates there alleged sexual assaults at more than twice the national average. The Ryan Report said the lack of any substantiations was “just not credible”—a searing indictment of both the department and the DA’s Office, which during that period had been run by the feckless Robert Johnson.
There is no ambiguity in cases where an officer and an inmate have sex: by law, inmates cannot be considered to have given consent. So how is it that Captain Porter was never charged, and CO Williams is still working as an officer despite the accusations that she both delivered a threat to Jane Doe against reporting the early assaults and took part in the later ones? Are we to believe that the de Blasio administration agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle the case but was not convinced that the two of them and others who haven’t been identified engaged in serious wrongdoing?
If so, the Mayor is even dumber and more divorced from running the city conscientiously than his critics suspect. The lack of severe punishment for those who rape inmates in their custody virtually assures that there will be at least a handful of officers sufficiently depraved to take their chances that a code of silence within the jails and the indifference of officials at the top of city government, the jail system and the District Attorney’s Office may allow them to get away with it.
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