Sanctions Ordered Against City of New York Defendants for Destroying Surveillance Footage of City Jail

  • September 17, 2013

Southern District of New York Judge Robert P. Patterson ordered sanctions against several New York City Department of Corrections (DOC) officials, corrections officers, and the City for the destruction of surveillance video depicting a violent attack on ECBAWM’s client, Dwaine Taylor, while he was in a holding cell at the Bronx Criminal Courthouse. Defendants destroyed all but eight minutes of video on either end of the incident, which started with the attack on Mr. Taylor and ended three hours later with Mr. Taylor still in the pen with his attacker. Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions for the destruction of evidence argued that Defendants had a duty to preserve the video footage at the time they became aware of the assault and their failure to do so warranted sanctions: an adverse inference that the jury can presume Plaintiff’s version of the facts relating to what happened during the three hours is true, preclusion of testimony about what the video footage depicted, and attorneys’ fees. Judge Patterson agreed and ordered all of the requested relief against defendants.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Taylor alleged that the DOC and correction officers at City jails allow members of the Bloods to maintain order among inmates in the jail through violence and threats of violence. Mr. Taylor alleged that Defendants had a duty to protect him, and failed to do so in part by putting him in the pen with his attacker and allowing him to remain there, bleeding and with a fractured jaw. The attack at the Bronx Criminal Courthouse was one of two Mr. Taylor suffered at the hands of other inmates as a result of Defendants’ alleged indifference.

Mr. Taylor is represented by ECBA’s Katherine Rosenfeld, Zoe Salzman, Jill Maxwell, and Jonathan S. Abady, and The Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project.