"We're maintaining a self-defense case," said Joseph A. Lo Piccolo, an attorney for Charles Creekmur, 27, who is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 7, 2012, death of Antwan Brown, 26, of Long Beach.
Lo Piccolo said his client, who was being detained in the Nassau jail at the time while awaiting trial on an attempted robbery charge, was attacked by as many as three inmates, including Brown, inside of a cell in the East Meadow facility.
Lo Piccolo said that, while the three inmates were assaulting Creekmur, the door to the cell closed and locked, but not before the two other men were able to escape, leaving Creekmur inside with Brown. Brown lost the fight with Creekmur, Lo Piccolo said.
Jail officials declined to release Creekmur's name at the time of the killing. Nassau police investigated the case and, in July 2012, Creekmur was indicted, Lo Piccolo said.
"My client was attacked by three individuals and left to fend for himself against one of them in a locked jail cell," Lo Piccolo said, adding that it is unclear why the door to the cell closed during the fight.
Tieara Little of Rockville Centre, Brown's sister, said she has heard a version of the incident that identifies Creekmur as the aggressor, and that jail authorities are also to blame.
"It was neglect of the officer," she said, adding that the family believes the struggle between Brown and Creekmur should have been stopped before it was too late to save her brother. "I felt that the officer should have done his job. How was he in his cell for so long for something to happen like this? He was in there for a while for him to be dead now. I feel he was neglected and not protected at all."
Prosecutors and jail officials declined to comment on either version.
Brown's death came at a time when the jail was under close scrutiny from local advocates and state officials because it was the site of a string of deaths. Five suicides took place at the jail within the previous two years, the second-highest suicide tally of any jail in the state, according to state records.
The killing was one of 15 in the state's county jails since 2003, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Of those, 10 were in New York City's jails, two in Onondaga County and one each in Erie and Niagara counties, state records show.
At the time, Creekmur was charged with attempted robbery and possession of a dangerous weapon stemming from a holdup attempt on July 12, 2011. Nassau police said he had tried to rob his former employer at Jerusalem Pizza in Cedarhurst armed with a BB gun and while wearing a ski mask.