Three jail guards allowed a ‘Lord of the Flies’-style crew of inmate enforcers to run wild, resulting in the vicious beating death of a teenage prisoner who defied their authority, prosecutors charged Thursday.
Rikers Island correction officers Michael McKie, Khalid Nelson and Denise Albright pleaded not guilty Thursday to enterprise corruption and conspiracy charges. Twelve inmates were to be arraigned within the next week on manslaughter and other offenses stemming from a series of extortion and assaults by the secret society, known in the Bronx jail’s teen offender section as the Program, prosecutors said.
On Oct. 18, 2008, with 18-year-old Christopher Robinson locked up for a parole violation, the crew held him down and beat him to death while enforcing the Program’s rules, they said.
‘What is most disturbing … is that this conduct turned a detention facility for adolescents into an incubator for violent criminal activity sanctioned by adults in positions of authority,’ District Attorney Robert Johnson said in a statement.
Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn called the slaying _ the first homicide in city jails in four years _ ‘tragic and shocking’ and ‘a stain on the well-earned reputations’ of honest guards.
An attorney for McKie and Albright, Joey Jackson, said neither was on duty at the time of Robinson’s death. Jackson accused prosecutors of building their case on the word of inmates ‘who have a motivation to lie.’
A lawyer for Nelson, Renee Hill, said her client ‘adamantly denies the charges.’
A four-month probe by the Department of Investigation resulted in an indictment accusing McKie and Nelson of recruiting enforcers among inmates, ages 16 to 19, to ‘approach new inmates and ask if they ‘respected’ or were ‘with’ the Program.’
Those who wanted no trouble had to give up their shoes or cuts of their commissary and phone privileges. Those who resisted were subjected to assaults _ authorized by McKie and Nelson and with Albright’s knowledge _ known as ‘spankings,’ court papers said.
The guards would unlock cells to allow the beatings, telling the assailants to avoid striking their victims in their faces to escape detection, the papers said.
Robinson’s family had previously filed a $20 million wrongful-death claim against the city.
‘It’s tragic that it took the death of an 18-year-old to expose this den of corruption,’ said Sanford Rubenstein, a lawyer representing the family. ‘He would not be extorted, and he was given a death sentence by the extortion ring.’
If convicted, McKie, 31, and Nelson, 34, each face up to 25 years in prison. Albright, 43, faces a maximum 15-year term.