Three former state prison guards from Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill were indicted in Manhattan federal court Wednesday in a brutal beating of an inmate in which one guard allegedly took dreadlocks torn from the victim’s head as a motorcycle “trophy.”
The indictment charged that Sgt. Kathy Scott and officers George Santiago Jr. and Carson Morris in 2013 beat Kevin Moore, an inmate who was about to be shipped to Rikers Island, in a dispute over putting him in a mental-health cell.
When Moore called himself a “monster,” the indictment alleges, Santiago and Morris began pounding and kicking the restrained inmate while Scott watched, ignoring pleas for mercy from Moore to make the beating stop.
“Who’s the monster now?” Scott allegedly taunted him.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, at a news conference to announce the charges and guilty pleas from two other ex-guards who are cooperating with authorities, said it marked the latest effort to show that prison violence in New York isn’t beyond the law.
“Inmates may be walled off from the public, but they are not walled off from the Constitution,” Bharara said.
The guards all faced disciplinary action by the state correction department in 2014, and have now been terminated. Bharara’s office became involved in the case when an investigation by the Dutchess County district attorney was stymied.
“We will pursue anyone that fails to uphold the integrity and professionalism that we place in our department,” state correction Commissioner Anthony Annucci said in a statement.
Martin Geduldig, a lawyer for Scott, 42, of Saugerties, said, “We plan to contest the charges vigorously.”
Lawyers for Santiago, 34, of upstate Fremont Center and Morris, 31, of Coconut Creek, Florida, did not return calls for comment.
Morris, 57, is still in the prison system, according to the state, and has filed a civil suit. His lawyer Philip Hines of Brooklyn said in a statement that Moore was “extremely pleased” charges were filed, but still suffers from his injuries and feels “lucky to be alive.”
“It’s too often inmates’ reports of being victim to excessive force are covered up by prison officials and staff,” Hines said. “The vast majority of those victims never receive the acknowledgment or justice they deserve.”
According to the indictment, as a result of the beating with fists, boots and batons, Moore suffered five fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, and multiple facial fractures, as well as having a “clump” of dreadlocks “ripped” from his head.
Santiago, according to the indictment, said “he wanted to keep Moore’s dreadlocks as a souvenir for his motorcycle, and later he retrieved some of the dreadlocks.”
Instead of being immediately hospitalized, the government said, he was put in solitary for the night with his injuries. He eventually was hospitalized for 17 days.
Afterward, the indictment charges, the three officers and others concocted a cover-up story, hitting another officer in the back with a baton with his consent in an effort to mimic an injury that they would claim was caused by Moore, and cleaning up Moore’s blood.
The three were accused of conspiracy to deprive Moore of his civil rights by using excessive force, conspiracy to falsify records and other charges.