Judge Sanctions City for Destruction of Video of Attack on Inmate

  • March 28, 2012

On March 28, 2012, United States District Judge Robert P. Patterson, Jr. granted a motion filed by ECBAWM attorneys Adam Pulver, Katherine Rosenfeld, and Jonathan Abady, along with the Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project, and awarded sanctions against the City of New York and various prison officials as a result of their destruction of surveillance camera footage of a brutal attack on an inmate. ECBAWM and the Prisoners’ Rights Project represent Kadeem John, who, while an 18-year-old inmate on Rikers Island, was severely beaten as part of the “Program,” a practice in which corrections officers allow certain inmates to effectively run adolescent jail units through patterns of intimidation and violence. As a result of this beating, Mr. John suffered significant neurological and kidney injuries. Although an investigation had been requested and correctional officials reviewed a video of the attack, the video was not preserved. The Defendants argued that the destruction was of no moment because correctional officials could be deposed, but, as Mr. Pulver explained to the Court: “A videotape is unique. It’s irreplaceable. It’s neutral. A jury should be entitled to see what the video showed.”

Judge Patterson agreed, and granted sanctions including attorneys’ fees and ordering that Defendants be barred from offering testimony about the recording and that the jury be instructed that a recording had existed, but was destroyed, and would have supported the Plaintiff’s version of events.

“Video That City Destroyed Is Cited in Inmate’s Lawsuit,” The New York Tjmes