A former corrections officer at New York’s Riker’s Island jail was sentenced to 30 years in jail on Wednesday, Sept. 13, for violating the civil rights of an ailing inmate.
Ex-guard Brian Coll, 47, was accused of kicking inmate Ronald Spear to death outside a prison doctor’s office in December 2012, New York’s PIX11 reported. The 52-year-old man, who was already severely ill, was held down by other guards while Coll repeatedly kicked him in the head.
Spear suffered severe brain bleeding as a result of the attack, evidence showed. He later died from his injuries.
“This was a particularly vicious and callous attack, and that what makes it such a serious offense,” federal Judge Loretta A. Preska said before handing down the sentence. Preska also cited evidence that Coll framed a newspaper clipping about the attack and hung it in his bedroom like a “trophy.”
The former guard was also convicted of obstruction of justice, falsifying records and conspiring to cover up the beating, according to The New York Times.
Before receiving his sentence, Coll reportedly told the judge, “I am not a cold and callous person. I am no killer. … I never had any intent to kill or badly hurt Mr. Spear.” He said he was devastated upon learning Spear had died and suffered depression and nightmares.
The deadly sequence of events unfolded when Spear became frustrated that he couldn’t immediately see a doctor; he suffered from diabetes, heart disease and end-stage renal disease that required dialysis, the newspaper reported. Spear and Coll got into an argument, prosecutors said. That’s when other guards at the prison leaped in to pin the inmate down as Coll screamed and kicked Spear several times in the head.
“He kicked him like he was kicking a field goal,” Anthony Torres, one of the guards who helped restrain Spear, testified in court. Torres said that at one point, Coll lifted Spear’s head and said, “This is what you get … remember I did this.”
During sentencing, Preska noted that an officer had tried to block Coll’s kicks while other officers yelled out for him to stop. Torres and another guard, however, pleaded guilty to helping cover up the attack.
“Everyday that Brian Coll and the other correction officers at Rikers Island lied about what happened to Ronald Spear, justice and peace for Mr. Spear’s family was delayed,” prosecutor Brooke E. Cucinella said.
The city of New York has paid $2.75 million to settle a suit brought by Spear’s family, The New York Times reported. Coll’s attorney said his client has plans to appeal the judge’s decision.