City Settles Suit Over Fatal Beating of Rikers Inmate for $2.75 Million

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A view of buildings at the Rikers Island penitentiary complex where IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in New York on May 17, 2011. The grand jury deciding whether or not to send IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to trial has until May 20th to decide. In the meantime, Strauss-Kahn, accused of attempting to rape a hotel maid, remains incarcerated without bail because a judge deemed him liable to attempt escape to France, which does not extradite citizens to the United States.  AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/2011 AFP

Two deaths at Rikers Island this year have brought to light allegations of severe beatings and poor medical care at the prison, and now the city is paying one of the largest settlements in recent years over violence against an inmate. The New York Times reports that the city has agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the December 2012 death of Ronald Spear. The 52-year-old suffered from kidney problems, and after many complaints about his dialysis treatment, he filed a lawsuit claiming he was being denied medication. In the suit, Spear alleged, "I have correction officers retaliating against me." Two weeks later he died of "blunt force trauma." Two witnesses say they saw a corrections officer knock Spear to the ground and kick him repeatedly in the head and chest as two other officers held him down.

One of the officers involved has been fired and others are facing disciplinary investigations, but a Department of Correction official said he could not release any other details. The city does not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement. Jonathan Chasan, a Legal Aid Society lawyer, described the case as "yet another example of the persistent problem of excessive force in the New York City jails, a problem that has not been adequately addressed or remediated."