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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Five Correction Officers Charged With Federal Crimes In Beating Of Inmate At Downstate Correctional Facility And Cover-Up

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), William V. Grady, the District Attorney of Dutchess County, and Anthony J. Annucci, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”), announced today criminal charges against five New York State correction officers relating to the November 12, 2013 beating of Kevin Moore, an inmate at the Downstate Correctional Facility (“Downstate”) in Fishkill, New York, and a conspiracy to cover-up the beating.  Two of the correction officers have pled guilty to the charges filed against them.

Three defendants are charged by Indictment: a former Sergeant named KATHY SCOTT, also known as Kathy Todd, and former correction officers GEORGE SANTIAGO JR. and CARSON MORRIS.  All three defendants are charged with federal civil rights offenses, including conspiring to deprive the victim of his Constitutional rights and depriving the victim of his Constitutional rights under color of law, as well as two counts of obstructing justice by conspiring to file false reports and filing false reports with DOCCS.

Two defendants, former correction officers DONALD COSMAN and ANDREW LOWERY, are charged by felony Informations.  They have both pled guilty to four counts:  conspiring to deprive the victim of his Constitutional rights; depriving the victim of his Constitutional rights under color of law; obstructing justice by conspiring to file false reports; and filing false reports.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Today’s charges allege a brutal beating and a brazen cover-up by five state correction officers that left Kevin Moore, a 54-year-old inmate, with life-threatening injuries and in the hospital for 17 days.  Inmates may be walled off from the public, but they are not walled off from the Constitution.  And when correction officers viciously beat an inmate in their charge, then collude among themselves to cover it up – as alleged here – they trample on the Constitution and the very laws they have sworn to uphold.” 

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “What we see in this case is the sheer deprivation of liberty without due process of law.  As charged, the defendants were relentless in their approach to admonish Moore for speaking up – brutally beating him with their boots and batons.  In an outward symbol of inner immorality, one of the officers allegedly boasted of the group’s illicit conduct by referring to the dreadlocks ripped from Moore’s scalp as souvenirs.  This type of behavior is outrageous, and it won’t be tolerated within our criminal justice system.”

Dutchess County District Attorney William V. Grady said:  “The Grand Jury indictment and existing pleas in this case would not have happened were it not for the close cooperation and partnership between my Office and United States Attorney Preet Bharara and his staff.  I sincerely compliment Mr. Bharara for his willingness to take the lead in this investigation after it became apparent that existing New York State Law would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to conduct an effective investigation at the State level.”

Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci said:  “These five individuals not only allegedly broke the trust placed in them by their fellow correction officers – they broke the law as well.  DOCCS has zero tolerance for any criminal activity involving staff or inmates within our facilities.  This announcement sends a strong message that we will pursue anyone that fails to uphold the integrity and professionalism that we place in our Department.  I commend DOCCS Office of Special Investigations, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their cooperation in bringing these individuals to justice.”

As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today[1], on November 12, 2013, a 54-year-old inmate named Kevin Moore was brutally beaten by a group of Downstate correction officers, causing life-threatening injuries.  As a result of the beating, Moore suffered five fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, and several facial fractures.  The officers also injured Moore’s back, hands, legs, and feet, and they ripped a clump of dreadlocks from his head.  Moore was ultimately hospitalized for approximately 17 days.

At approximately 5:00 p.m. that day, Moore and other Downstate inmates were escorted to the 1-Delta Housing Unit to be confined overnight.  Moore and another inmate were instructed to remove their shoelaces because they were going to be confined in Forensic Diagnostic Unit cells, which are designed for inmates with mental health issues.  SCOTT, SANTIAGO, MORRIS, COSMAN, LOWERY, and other correction officers were surrounding the inmates when Moore objected to being confined in a mental health cell, saying he had a good lawyer and that he was “a monster.”  MORRIS punched Moore and struck him with his correction officer baton.  Several of the officers then threw Moore to the floor.    

After the officers forced Moore to the ground, the defendants beat Moore for several minutes, striking him dozens of times.  Defendant SANTIAGO kicked and punched Moore multiple times, and at one point, reared back and kicked Moore in the face, and then laughed.  Defendant MORRIS punched and struck Moore with his knee multiple times while Moore was prone on the floor.   Moore’s pants fell down during the beating, and COSMAN and LOWERY punched and kicked him in his exposed groin as he lay on the floor.  Both SCOTT and SANTIAGO taunted Moore by saying, “Who’s a monster now?”  During the beating, dreadlocks were ripped from Moore’s head and SANTIAGO later retrieved the dreadlocks, saying that he wanted to keep them as a souvenir for his motorcycle.

Sergeant SCOTT was present for and watched over the entire beating without stopping the violence.  At one point while Moore was on the floor being beaten, SCOTT grabbed him herself.  She also directed that Moore be held in place on the ground, rendering him even more exposed to punches and kicks.  While Moore was being beaten, he cried out in pain, begged for the beating to stop, and pleaded with Sergeant SCOTT, “Why, Sarge, why?  Make it stop.” 

After the beating, the correction officers needed to physically lift Moore from the ground, where he was lying in a pool of his own blood.  Moore suffered several fractured ribs, several facial fractures, and a collapsed lung, in addition to other injuries.  Instead of being sent to the hospital for treatment, Moore was locked into solitary confinement to suffer in pain overnight.   

Soon afterward, defendants SANTIAGO, MORRIS, and COSMAN met to fabricate a story to justify the excessive force used against Moore.  Although they knew it was not true, SANTIAGO, MORRIS and COSMAN agreed that COSMAN would pretend to have been injured by Moore at the beginning of the incident, in order to justify the excessive force used against Moore.  To substantiate that cover story, SANTIAGO struck COSMAN on the back with a baton, causing marks.  SCOTT took photographs of the marks to document the group’s cover story.  SCOTT, SANTIAGO, MORRIS, LOWERY, and COSMAN also agreed to make false reports supporting the cover story.  

Defendants KATHY SCOTT, GEORGE SANTIAGO JR., and CARSON MORRIS were taken into custody today.  SCOTT and SANTIAGO will be presented before United States Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith today in federal court in White Plains, New York.  MORRIS was arrested in Coconut Creek, Florida, and was presented today before a federal judge in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

SCOTT, 42, of Saugerties, New York, SANTIAGO, 34, of Fremont Center, New York, and MORRIS, 31, of Coconut Creek, Florida,  are each charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; one count of conspiracy to deprive civil rights, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; one count of falsifying documents, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; and one count of conspiring to falsify documents, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants would be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI, the Criminal Investigators at the United States Attorney’s Office, the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office, and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s Office of Special Investigations.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division and the Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel P. Filor and Pierre G. Armand are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and SCOTT, SANTIAGO, and MORRIS are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

 

Updated September 21, 2016