Guard pleads not guilty in inmate death

A former New York City jail guard from Smithtown pleaded not guilty Thursday in federal court in Manhattan to new charges that he beat a man to death at Rikers Island in 2012.

During a hearing on the new charges, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska set a May 31, 2016, trial date for ex-guard Brian Coll, 46, charged in the death, and Byron Taylor, 31, of Brentwood, a Rikers guard accused of helping cover up the beating of Ronald Spear.

Taylor also pleaded not guilty. Both men were originally charged in June.

Prosecutors this week released a new indictment charging that injuries inflicted when Coll repeatedly kicked Spear led to his death. He faces up to life in prison.

But defense lawyer Samuel A. Schmidt told reporters after yesterday's hearing that Coll expected to beat that charge.

The alleged beating occurred in a medical unit at Rikers, when Spear wanted to see a doctor and Coll told him no one was available. Coll kicked Spear repeatedly in the head while Taylor and another guard restrained him on the ground, prosecutors say.

Spear suffered a "brain bleed," and the death was ruled a homicide with "blunt force trauma to the head" and diabetes as a contributing factor to his death from "hypertensive cardiovascular disease."

Coll has been unable to make bail, and has been held in a federal jail in Brooklyn since June.

Seizing unlicensed taxis illegal, judge says

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A federal judge has declared that New York City's practice of seizing the cars of suspected unlicensed taxis until they pay fines is an illegal seizure that violates the constitutional rights of first-time violators.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, ruling in a lawsuit brought by five drivers and companies, said she would now consider certifying a class action and issuing an injunction. The plaintiffs also are seeking damages.

Lawyers who filed the case said the city had been seizing about 8,000 cars annually under a policy adopted in 1990 to deal with a high rate of scofflaws among those who were given summonses for providing livery services without a license.

"There is no question that regulating vehicles that operate for-hire is a legitimate exercise of police power," Caproni wrote. "But summary deprivation of property is not."