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Protecting Civil Rights

Protecting Civil Rights

The Vessel
Caption: 
The Vessel in Hudson Yards

Protecting Civil Rights

The Office is a leader in the prosecution of civil and criminal cases to ensure the protection of civil rights for individuals within the District.

Criminal

  • Federal Hate Crimes Prosecution of Alleged Monsey Attacker:  In December 2019, the Office announced federal hate crimes charges against Grafton Thomas.  As alleged, Thomas entered a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York,  during observances related to the end of Shabbat and the seventh night of Hanukkah.  He declared to dozens of assembled congregants, “no one is leaving,” and attacked the group with an 18-inch machete.  At least five victims were hospitalized with serious injuries, including slash wounds, deep lacerations, a severed finger, and a skull fracture.  A grand jury returned an indictment against Thomas in January 2020, and the case is currently pending in White Plains federal court.

  • Prosecuting Threats Against Religious Organization:  In July 2019, the Office charged Garrett Kelsey with threatening a Manhattan-based Jewish organization.  As alleged, Kelsey made violent threats by phone and email and demanded that the organization remove a video about Nordic Neo-Nazis that it had uploaded to the Internet.  The case is currently pending.

  • Prosecution of Five Downstate Prison Correction Officers: The Civil Rights and Public Corruption Units successfully prosecuted five New York State Correction Officers for the brutal beating of inmate Kevin Moore, and for falsifying records to cover up the beating.  In July 2018, the two defendants who went to trial, Kathy Scott and George Santiago, Jr., were sentenced to 100 months and 87 months, respectively.  While Moore was in custody at the Downstate Correctional Facility, multiple officers, including Santiago, forced Moore to the floor, restrained him, and then proceeded to assault Moore as he lay there, repeatedly punching and kicking Moore in the head and body.  Immediately after the beating, Santiago and other officers, led by Scott, engaged in an elaborate cover-up of the crime they had committed.  Among other things, they made up a false cover story that Moore had attacked one of the officers and that another officer had to strike Moore once in the head to save his fellow officer.
  • Rikers Island Correction Officer Convicted at Trial: In September 2017, a jury convicted Brian Coll, a New York City Correction Officer, for beating an inmate, Ronald Spear, to death and for obstructing justice by covering up the true cause of Spear’s death.  In the early morning hours of December 19, 2012, Spear left the housing area in the infirmary unit in an attempt to see the on-duty doctor but was stopped by Coll, who said that the doctor was not available to see him.  In an altercation that ensued, Coll punched Spear several times in the face and stomach, after which Spear was restrained by two other correction officers, Anthony Torres and Byron Taylor.  While Spear was lying prone on the ground and was still restrained, Coll repeatedly kicked Spear in the head, even after Torres attempted to shield Spear’s head with his hand and shouted at Coll to stop.  After Coll stopped kicking Spear, Coll lifted up Spear’s head, told him to remember who had done this to him, and then dropped Spear’s head to the ground.  Spear was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the assault.  After Spear’s death, Coll and others attempted to cover up the true cause of Spear’s death by concocting a false story that turned Spear into the aggressor, falsely claiming that Spear had attacked Coll with a cane.  Coll received a 30-year sentence. 
  • Corrections Officer Convicted of Civil Rights Offense for Sexual Assault:  in August 2017, following an investigation by the Civil Rights and Public Corruption Units, Jeffrey Green, a former correction officer at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, pleaded guilty to violating the constitutional rights of an inmate by subjecting her to abusive sexual contact.  On a late evening in March 2016, Green unlocked and opened his victim’s cell, grabbed her, and sexually assaulted her by, among other things, kissing her neck, chest, and breast and nipple areas, and fondling her groin.  Green was interrupted by the arrival of another correction officer knocking on a door to be admitted into the unit.  Green received a 9-month sentence.   

Civil

  • Agreement to Increase Accessibility to the Vessel at Hudson Yards:  In December 2019, the Office announced an agreement with Related Companies L.P. and ERY Vessel LLC. to install a one-of-a-kind platform lift mechanism on the upper levels of the Vessel, a new public attraction in Hudson Yards, to increase the Vessel’s accessibility for individuals with disabilities.  Under the agreement, Related agreed to design, construct, install, and operate a platform lift mechanism to  allow individuals with disabilities to traverse the stairways and platforms at the top levels of the Vessel so as to enjoy 360-degree views, providing access to the most traveled areas of the Vessel that were otherwise inaccessible to individuals with disabilities.    
  • ADA Litigation Against MTA: In March 2019, as part of its continued enforcement work under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Division’s Civil Rights Unit helped secure a partial summary judgment that, if applied going forward, would obligate the MTA to install elevators whenever it performs a subway station renovation that affects the station’s usability, regardless of cost. 
  • Municipal Race Discrimination Settlement: In November 2017, the Civil Rights Unit settled a race discrimination lawsuit against the New York City Department of Transportation for a pattern and practice of Title VII violations, requiring the City to pay $1.3 million in damages and revise its promotion policies.

 

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