A guard at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex pleaded guilty on Wednesday to falsifying records by indicating that she had checked on a mentally ill, homeless Marine Corps veteran who died in a cell in which the heat reached 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
Carol Lackner, 36, pleaded guilty in state court in The Bronx borough of New York City to one count of first-degree falsifying business records and was sentenced to five years of probation, prosecutors said.
She was initially indicted in December 2014 on charges stemming from the death of 56-year-old Jerome Murdough who died in February 2014 in the overheated cell.
New York City agreed in 2014 to pay $2.25 million to resolve a wrongful death claim by Murdough’s family. The city medical examiner’s office had ruled that his death was not a homicide but had been caused by hyperthermia due to exposure to heat.
Prosecutors said Lackner had failed to inspect the cells of inmates at the Anna M. Kross Center’s mental observation unit during her three hours there on Feb. 14, 2014, yet made logbook entries claiming to have done so.
Mark Peters, commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation, said in a statement that Lackner “ignored her responsibilities as a correction officer, failing to perform required checks and leaving her shift prematurely, while an inmate under her watch died in his cell.”
A lawyer for Lackner could not be reached for comment.
She was among dozens of Rikers staffers who have been charged with crimes including assault and smuggling over the past two years, as persistent allegations of abuse of inmates and drug trafficking plague one of the country’s largest prison complexes.
Approximately 10,000 inmates, housed in 10 facilities, are mostly unable to pay bail and are awaiting trial or they have been convicted and are serving short-term sentences.
Last year New York City agreed to implement reforms to resolve a lawsuit filed by inmates and backed by the U.S. Department of Justice, in which guards were accused of routinely using excessive force.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Toni Reinhold)