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July 22, 2019

NYC to pay ex-inmate $500,000 over claims she was raped by officers at Rikers

February 11, 2019
Entrance to Rikers Island in the Bronx, N.Y. (James Keivom / New York Daily News)

New York City has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former Rikers Island inmate who said she was raped by two correction officers.

The woman was at the Rose M. Singer Center at Rikers awaiting trial on drug charges in 2015 when she was raped, sexually abused and sexually harassed by correction officers Jose Cosme and Leonard McNeil, according to a lawsuit she filed last year in federal court. The woman was not identified.


After she reported the attacks, correction staff and inmates retaliated with threats against her life and verbal abuse, and denied her the most basic necessities, such as soap, the lawsuit said.

“No compensation will ever come close to righting the sexual violence our client suffered at the hands of Jose Cosme and Leonard McNeil while at Rikers Island,” Marlen Bodden and Barbara Hamilton, staff attorneys with the Special Litigation Unit of The Legal Aid Society, said in a statement.

Cosme, 38, was sentenced under a plea agreement to 10 years probation, fired from his job and registered as a Level 1 sex offender. McNeil was neither prosecuted nor disciplined, though jail authorities reassigned him to a different job at Rikers.

“This settlement delivers some justice and further underscores the culture of impunity that exists among correctional staff at New York City jails. We hope other people who have suffered similar trauma at Rikers Island or other local jails will speak out and seek justice,” Bodden and Hamilton said in the statement.

Prosecutors said Cosme ambushed the former inmate inside a small closet area away from cameras at 9:10 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2015.

The victim was so worried that her complaint would be ignored by correction officials that she mailed pieces of her shirt with Cosme’s DNA on it to a friend and to a relative.

She also accused McNeil of raping her, but had no physical evidence against him.

“The health and safety of those in DOC custody remains a top priority,” a Law Department spokesman said. ”This settlement is a fair resolution of the claims against the city and in the best interest of all parties.”

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