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Bronx DA won't prosecute Rikers Island guards in teens' beating, spokeswoman says

A Rikers Island juvenile detention facility officer walks

A Rikers Island juvenile detention facility officer walks down a hallway of the jail, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in New York. Credit: AP / Julie Jacobson

Rikers Island guards will not be prosecuted for the beatings of two teenagers whose case was highlighted in a Monday report by the U.S. attorney condemning brutality against adolescents at the city jail, a Bronx district attorney spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The two teens, according to the federal report, were punched repeatedly for as much as five minutes in the jail's medical clinic after throwing urine at guards. One was beaten while handcuffed to a gurney and the other begged guards to stop, clinic staff said, but correction officers said later the two had banged their own heads against the wall.

The case -- one of more than a dozen abusive incidents described in the report -- was referred to Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson by the city Department of Investigation in July 2013.

Johnson spokeswoman Terry Raskyn said the district attorney has decided that despite witnesses who are not guards or inmates, the case is not prosecutable.

"We would not have been able to prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt," she said. "There were inconsistent witness statements, sometimes inconsistencies from one interview to the next; there were inconsistencies between the witness statements and the injuries, and there were line of sight problems."

"Line of sight" means that some events occurred in areas that were not visible, Raskyn said. She said that Johnson, who has jurisdiction over Rikers, prosecutes 90 percent of the cases referred to him.

The Department of Investigation, which has been probing conditions at Rikers, said it has referred the case to the Department of Corrections for disciplinary proceedings.

The federal report urged the city to move teens out of Rikers, install more cameras, improve training and discipline, and demand more accountability from guards and supervisors to combat a "code of silence" at the jail.

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