By MICHAEL WINERIP and MICHAEL SCHWIRTZSEPT. 21, 2016
On the night three years ago when Kevin Moore’s dreadlocks were ripped out and his ribs and facial bones were broken, a group of New York State corrections officers involved in a confrontation with him said that they were the victims, that Mr. Moore, a 56-year-old inmate, had attacked them.
To make their case, the officers, who worked at Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, produced a trove of evidence. There were photos of a back injury one of them had sustained; pages from use-of-force reports; assorted memorandums and entries in a cellblock log book — all of it attesting to the professionalism the officers displayed in subduing Mr. Moore.
In fact, it was all lies, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday as they unsealed charges of civil rights violations and fraud against five of the officers involved in the Nov. 12, 2013, beating.
The back injury? Corrections Officer George Santiago Jr. had actually hit another officer with a baton to make it appear that the inmate had attacked him, the prosecutors said. The stacks of reports? Falsified, the prosecutors said, by several officers who cleaned up Mr. Moore’s blood and then, instead of sending him to the hospital, placed him in solitary confinement overnight.
When the episode was over, Officer Santiago took Mr. Moore’s dreadlocks as a “trophy,” bragging that he wanted them as decoration for his motorcycle, according to the indictment filed by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara.
“Excessive use of force in prisons, we believe, has reached crisis proportions in New York State,” Mr. Bharara said.
Officer Santiago, along with another officer, Carson Morris, and a sergeant, Kathy Scott, were arrested by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and charged with depriving Mr. Moore of his civil rights, falsifying records and conspiracy. Officer Morris initiated the beating, striking Mr. Moore with his baton, according to the indictment. Sergeant Scott, who was supposed to be supervising the others, held Mr. Moore down as he begged, “Make it stop.”
Officer Santiago and Sergeant Scott pleaded not guilty in federal court in White Plains on Wednesday; each was released on $300,000 bond. Officer Morris was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and will be arraigned in New York.
Two other officers, Donald Cosman and Andrew Lowery, have already pleaded guilty to the same charges and are cooperating with prosecutors, according to Mr. Bharara
The arrests come as the state prison system faces intense scrutiny from prosecutors and the news media.
Last year, just two miles from Downstate, an inmate at Fishkill Correctional Facility, Samuel Harrell, died after an encounter with as many as 20 officers, known by inmates at that prison as the Beat Up Squad.
Document: Charges Against 3 Corrections Officers in Fishkill, N.Y.
And last year, the United States attorney’s office for the Western District of New York opened an investigation into the beating of an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility by three corrections officers, who pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge and resigned.
Mr. Moore was supposed to be at Downstate overnight and was scheduled to be transported to New York City the next day for a court hearing. Instead of putting him in a regular holding cell, officers assigned him to a mental health unit. When he argued that he had no mental health problems, the guards called for backup, forced him to the ground and held him down, according to the indictment.
At no time did Mr. Moore “physically threaten the correction officers,” the indictment says.
While he was on the ground, officers kicked and punched him in the face, head and body and beat him with their wooden batons.
“When Moore’s pants fell down during the beating, two correction officers, punched and kicked Moore in his exposed groin as he lay on the floor,” the indictment said.
Officer Santiago appeared to be the ringleader. “At one point Santiago reared back and kicked Moore in the face and then laughed,” the indictment says.
When the beating was over, according to the indictment, the officers “lifted him from the ground where he was lying in a pool of his own blood.” Mr. Moore had five broken ribs and a collapsed lung and his face was shattered. But instead of taking him to the hospital, officers dragged him to a solitary confinement cell.
Later, Officer Santiago returned to the cellblock and collected a clump of Mr. Moore’s dreadlocks from the floor, the indictment said.
To justify the beating, the officers needed to explain why, if Mr. Moore had attacked them, none of them had been injured. So they created an injury, according to the indictment. Officer Santiago hit another guard across the back with his baton and Officer Morris then rubbed the wounded area with his hands to make the injury look more serious. Sergeant Scott took several photographs for the official record.
The next morning, New York City correction officers transported Mr. Moore to the Rikers Island jail complex before his scheduled court appearance. But supervisors were so shocked by his injuries that they had him taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, according to city officials. There, investigators from the city’s Correction Department interviewed him, photographed his injuries and sent the information to state investigators.
Mr. Moore spent 17 days in the hospital, according to the indictment.
Officer Cosman and Officer Morris were suspended and eventually resigned, though Officer Cosman stayed on the job until last month.
Though Sergeant Scott and Officer Santiago were fired in September 2014, they fought back. In a federal lawsuit, they claimed they had been terminated only because they were minorities — Sergeant Scott because she is a white woman, the complaint said, and Mr. Santiago because he is Hispanic.
In April, the two agreed to suspend their suit until the F.B.I. had finished its investigation.