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Press Release

Correction Officer Pleads Guilty In Cover-Up Of Beating And Death Of Inmate At Rikers Island

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the guilty plea of New York City Correction Officer BYRON TAYLOR in connection with efforts to cover up the cause of the death of Ronald Spear, a pre-trial detainee at Rikers Island.  TAYLOR pled guilty to perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with his actions following Spear’s death, after lying repeatedly about his actions and those of other correction officers to a federal grand jury investigating Spear’s death.  TAYLOR pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As he admitted today, New York City Correction Officer Byron Taylor conspired to cover up the beating and death of Ronald Spear, a detainee at Rikers Island.  Taylor lied to a federal grand jury and together with others concocted a story that blamed the victim – who had serious physical ailments – for starting an altercation with correction officers.  This Office is committed to ensuring that incarcerated people are treated fairly and protected from abuse by the correction officers sworn to both guard and protect them.”       

According to the Indictment, Superseding Indictment, and Complaint[1] filed in this case, and statements made during the plea proceeding:

Rikers Island is a jail complex located in the Bronx, New York, and is maintained by the New York City Department of Correction.  At the time of his death, Ronald Spear was a pretrial detainee incarcerated on Rikers Island in the North Infirmary Command, a facility housing detainees who have serious physical ailments or conditions requiring medical supervision and intervention. Spear was suffering from end-stage renal disease, which required him to receive dialysis treatments, and wore a bracelet indicating that he was at “Risk of Fall.”  Spear typically walked with a cane.  

In the early morning hours of December 19, 2012, Spear left the housing area in the infirmity unit in an attempt to see the on-duty doctor.  Spear was stopped outside the doctor’s office by a correction officer.  When Spear was told the doctor was not available to see him at that time, an altercation between officers and Spear ensued, and Spear was pronounced dead at the scene shortly afterward.          

After Spear’s death, TAYLOR and others covered up the true cause of Spear’s death by concocting a false story that portrayed Spear as the aggressor.  Consistent with their agreement, correction officers filed false Use of Force reports with the Department of Correction and lied repeatedly to Department of Correction investigators, to the Bronx District Attorney and, in TAYLOR’S case, to a federal grand jury.        

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BYRON TAYLOR, 32, of Brentwood, New York, pled guilty to one count of perjury, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.    

TAYLOR is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Preska on December 20, 2016.

ANTHONY TORRES, 60, of New Rochelle, New York, previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and file false reports, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and one count of filing a false report, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

The trial of a third defendant, BRIAN COLL, is scheduled to commence on October 18, 2016, in front of Judge Preska.  The charges against Brian Coll are merely accusations, and Coll is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Criminal Investigators at the United States Attorney’s Office.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the New York City Department of Correction, Investigative Division, and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in the investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights and Public Corruption Units.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brooke E. Cucinella, Jeannette A. Vargas, and Martin S. Bell are in charge of the prosecution.   


[1] As to Brian Coll, as the introductory phrase signifies, the text of the Complaint, Indictment, and Superseding Indictment constitute only allegations and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Updated September 20, 2016

Press Release Number: 16-250