Two former New York City jail guards have received conditional discharges instead of prison time for their failure to intervene in a teenage inmate’s suicide attempt for nearly eight minutes, resulting in severe brain damage. Daniel Fullerton and Mark Wilson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor official misconduct and will avoid jail if they stay out of trouble for a year.
Fullerton, Wilson, and two other officers were charged in connection with an 18-year-old inmate’s suicide attempt at the Rikers Island jail complex in 2019. The other officers’ cases are still pending. The inmate, Nicholas Feliciano, suffered permanent brain damage and requires long-term medical care.
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Feliciano had a history of self-harm attempts in prison, according to the report. (Fox News)
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Surveillance video showed jail guards walking past Feliciano without taking action for almost eight minutes, according to prosecutors. An investigation report by the city Board of Correction revealed that the officers believed Feliciano was pretending to attempt suicide.
The report also stated that Feliciano had a history of depression and previous self-harm attempts while in jail. He was at Rikers Island for a parole violation related to robbery cases. The report recommended immediate identification of individuals with prior self-harm history in jail and a reevaluation of mental health training for guards.
The Bronx district attorney’s office publicly announced the guards’ indictments but did not disclose their guilty pleas and sentences. Initially, the guards were charged with misdemeanor official misconduct and felony reckless endangerment, which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
David Rankin, an attorney for Feliciano’s family, expressed satisfaction that the two guards took responsibility by pleading guilty. However, he added, “It is shocking you can just let someone almost die, and you don’t get so much as community service.”
The Bronx district attorney’s office declined to comment.
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Contact information for Fullerton and Wilson could not be found in public records as of Saturday.
Fullerton’s lawyer, Kenneth Montgomery, stated that Fullerton took immediate action when he noticed Feliciano in distress and criticized the prosecution as “heavy-handed.”
“I just thought it was political and overkill,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Information regarding Wilson’s case and his lawyer was not available in online court records. Fullerton resigned from the Correction Department, and Wilson was fired, according to the Daily News.
The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association accused the officers’ indictments of being politically motivated and called on prosecutors to charge inmates who assault guards.
The Rikers Island complex has faced criticism for inmate deaths, violence, mold, and other issues. In August, a federal judge agreed to explore the possibility of placing a court-appointed outside authority in charge of Rikers Island, taking control away from Mayor Eric Adams and the city’s troubled jail system.