MANHATTAN (CN) — As New York City works on closing the Rikers Island prison complex, a federal jury handed a mixed verdict Thursday to a corrections officer caught beating an inmate in surveillance video.
Rodiny Calypso, 38, is the latest corrections officer to find himself on the other side of the bars after civil-rights prosecution in criminal court.
As recorded by the Bronx jail’s surveillance video, Calypso had removed a pretrial detainee from a shower stall on Feb. 27, 2014, when a heated verbal exchange erupted.
In the ensuing tussle, Calypso is seen elbowing the inmate — whom the New York Post identified as Adnan Masoud — and punching him repeatedly in the face. Prosecutors say Masoud had been handcuffed at the time.
Though Calypso was acquitted Thursday of violating Masoud’s constitutional rights and obstructing justice, they jury did find Calypso guilty of filing a false report.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim celebrated the conclusion of the a weeklong trial.
“Prisoners at Rikers Island have the same constitutional rights we all enjoy, and corrections officers do not have the right to abuse inmates in their custody and care,” Kim said in a statement. “Rodiny Calypso’s lies about his use of force undermined the investigation into his brutal beating of a handcuffed, defenseless inmate.”
The count of conviction carries a possible 20-year maximum sentence.
Calypso’s attorney Joey Jackson, from the Manhattan-based firm Koehler & Isaacs, found vindication in the verdict for his client.
“I’m thankful to the jury obviously that they saw that my client was a professional correctional officer,” he said in a phone interview.
“My client was protecting himself,” he added.
Jackson explained that the inmate spat in his client’s face when the shower door was opened.
“My client feared, ‘What’s next?’” he said. “Usually, when people spit at you, they don’t mean, ‘Good afternoon.’”
No physical provocation by the inmate was captured by the surveillance cameras.
New York’s Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said Calypso clearly was the aggressor.
“This correction officer betrayed his oath to protect safety and security in the city’s jails when he used force against an inmate and then covered up his conduct by fabricating a story that the inmate was the aggressor,” Peters said. “The jury’s conviction in this case stands as a firm reminder that cover ups and lies by our city’s correction officers will not be tolerated.”
Jackson would not reveal whether his client would be appealing the count of conviction, insisting that his client made an “error” because he filed the report some 10 hours after the incident.
“The jury disagreed,” he said. “This is our judicial system. I appreciate their time, their effort, their energy, and I’m just sorry he wasn’t acquitted of all counts.”
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni will sentence Calypso on Nov. 30.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a 10-year plan to shutter Rikers Island prison complex earlier this year, after a string of civil-rights cases put a spotlight on chronic abuses against inmates in the isolated complex.
These cases included one filed by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who compared the juvenile prison at Rikers to a scene from “Lord of the Flies” in 2015.
The settlement in that case paved the way for a string of reforms that did little to curb reports of brutality behind bars. One lawsuit by female inmates says the women’s prison turned a blind eye to rampant sexual violence.
Those claims were settled this year for an undisclosed sum.