Three New York correctional officers beat an inmate, pulled out his dreadlocks, and used them as a “trophy,” federal prosecutors alleged Wednesday.
George Santiago Jr., Carson Morris, and Kathy Scott of Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, New York have been charged by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for violating Kevin Moore’s civil rights and falsifying records. Two other officers, Donald Cosman and Andrew Lowery, have also been charged with filing false reports. The indictment by Preet Bharara’s office alleges a wide conspiracy of unprovoked torture and cover-up among Downstate correctional officers at the expense of Moore, who is black.
"Excessive use of force in prisons we believe has reached crisis proportions in New York State," Bharara said in a Wednesday afternoon press conference on the indictments.
Moore, 56, was only supposed to spend one night in the Downstate Correctional Facility on November 12, 2013, before being transferred to the Rikers Island facility in New York City. But when he arrived at Downstate for his one-night stay, officers allegedly tried placing him in a ward for inmates with mental health issues.
Moore worried that the Department of Corrections might change his health records to reflect his stay in the specialized cell block. He didn’t want his record to portray him as "a monster,” he allegedly told officers.
That’s when several officers allegedly grabbed him, while Morris began beating him with his fists and baton.
“Who's a monster now?” Santiago allegedly told Moore, laughing.
The officers then forced Moore to the ground, where the beating intensified, prosecutors allege. For minutes on end, the officers allegedly punched and kicked him, first in the head, then in the groin after his pants slipped down.
After Moore was moved from the pool of his own blood, Santiago allegedly returned to the scene to collect some of Moore’s dreadlocks, which had been ripped out. Santiago wanted them as “a trophy” to decorate his motorcycle.
Moore was hospitalized for 17 days with “many life-threatening injuries, including five fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, and facial fractures in multiple places,” and severe contusions to the back, hand, leg and foot, the feds say.
The officers did not tell Moore to stop resisting; he wasn’t resisting in the first place, the federal charges claim. But that’s not what Downstate Correctional records reflected after the incident. Immediately after the beating, officers allegedly cleaned Moore’s blood from the floor, but denied the badly bleeding man any medical treatment.
Then they allegedly began fabricating their own injuries. To create the appearance of a struggle, Santiago allegedly struck another corrections officers with his baton, while Morris applied friction to the new wound, making it look more serious.
Todd allegedly began taking pictures of the new injuries to file in an incident report. The final report told a fabricated story, one in which Moore initiated the beatdown by shoving an officer, the charges claim.
The charges are not the first for any of the officers. In another 2013 incident, Todd and Morris were found guilty of lying during an investigation into another case of alleged brutality. In this incident, an inmate’s head was smashed through a glass door in the facility’s library. Todd was slapped with a $5,250 pay cut, and Morris lost eight vacation days. Both remained on duty as officers.
Todd and Santiago were also named in two 2015 lawsuits, which New York settled for a combined $60,000. In one lawsuit, an inmate accused Santiago and other officers of kicking him while he was cuffed, then smashing his head through class, breaking facial bones.
In the other lawsuit, which names both Todd and Santiago, inmate Keenan Parker accused corrections officers of attempting to break his leg during a beating. During a stop-and-frisk, Santiago was allegedly ordered to break Parker’s leg. Parker said Santiago stomped and twisted his legs, trying to snap them before giving up.
Fishkill Correctional Facility, a neighboring prison for the mentally ill, has also had a history of prisoner abuse at the hands of corrections officers. The so called “beat-up squad” of guards drove a mentally ill prisoner to take his own life in 2013, The Daily Beast reported earlier this month. In 2014, the beat-up squad allegedly killed inmate Samuel Harrell by throwing him down a flight of stairs.
No one has been criminally charged in either incident.