A Rikers Island inmate who was allegedly brutally beaten by a guard failed to identify his assailant in court on Thursday, the New York Times is reporting.
Jahmal Lightfoot was in court Thursday to pick out Eliseo Perez Jr., the former assistant chief of security who allegedly ordered his brutal beating in July 2012. He could not pick him out when asked to identify him.
Jahmal had suffered a broken nose and two fractured eye sockets.
— Keegan Stephan (@KeeganNYC) February 29, 2016
Nine guards have been arraigned for the assault, including Perez and retired captain Gerald Vaughn.
As the Times reports, Lightfoot picked a different officer during the criminal trial of the Rikers Island correctional officers in a State Supreme Court. Several of the defense lawyers reacted with excitement that Lightfoot did not pick Perez.
Lightfoot’s testimony is the focal point of a criminal trial against five officers who beat him up in cahoots with three others who allegedly tried to bury the violation in a ton of paperwork. The nine officers face a slew of charges, including attempted gang assault in the first degree, tampering with physical evidence, official misconduct and fabricating business records. The gang assault charges alone could carry 15 years in prison each for the officers.
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Perez retired in 2013. Seven other officers — Harmon Frierson, David Rodriguez, Jose Parra, Tobias Parker, Jeffery Richard, Dwayne Maynard, and Alfred Rivera — were allowed to return to work after being suspended in 2013. Their jobs have been tweaked in order not to allow contact with inmates.
Lightfoot, 31, who was serving time for robbery, was released in 2014. He is the father of a 7-month-old baby girl and is currently looking for work in construction. While giving his testimony, Lightfoot said an inmate was slashed, which led to all the other inmates being herded together and strip-searched. Lightfoot recalled that while passing through twin metal detectors, some inmates yelled at the captain, Gerald Vaughn.
Lightfoot said out of nowhere, Perez told him to face forward and ordered officers to kick his teeth in because he felt he was tough. After the beating, the officers took him to another cell, removed his cuffs and pummeled him.
“I balled up into a fetal position and just kept getting hit, I kept getting hit and punched and kicked all over my body. I couldn’t do nothing but just hold myself,” he said.
Prosecutors say five officers beat Lightfoot in a cell behind drapes to conceal their atrocious act away from surveillance cameras. They added that three other officers stood outside as guards.
The intention of the prosecuting team is to portray Lightfoot as a victim, who was unarmed, overwhelmed and beaten by prison officers because they wanted to use him as an example and intimidate other prisoners.
Defense lawyers have argued that Lightfoot was not singled out. They say the officers were doing their jobs after being attacked by Lightfoot, who was brandishing a sharp object. They went on to cast doubt over the seriousness of his injuries and his credibility as a former inmate of Rikers Island.
This closely-followed trial continues to underline the violent culture in America’s largest prison, which houses over 10,000 inmates. New Bronx district attorney Darcel D. Clark, who promised to prosecute all crimes committed at the prison, was present in court.
Jahmal Lightfoot was not the first Rikers Island inmate to allegedly be assaulted by guards. Three officers were charged with beating Ronald Spear to death at the same prison. The 52-year-old who was awaiting trial was held down by one officer and kicked repeatedly by another in the head. Both officers allegedly tried to cover it up by saying Spear attacked them with his cane.
The inmate was on dialysis treatment from the renal disease he suffered and used the cane to move around, according to the Washington Post. One of the officers had allegedly said “remember that I’m the one who did this to you.” An autopsy revealed that Spears had suffered fractured ribs and multiple contusions to the head.
[Image via Shutterstock/Chaikom]