04/13/2007

11 New York corrections officers charged with beating 2 inmates

By TOM HAYS, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK — Guards at a federal jail have been charged with viciously beating two inmates, and in one case trying to conceal the attack by making it look like a suicide attempt.

An indictment charges 11 former and current corrections officers at the Metropolitan Detention Center in the city's Brooklyn borough with violating the civil rights of the two inmates in separate assaults in 2002 and 2006.

Capt. Salvatore Lopresti, a high-ranking supervisor, pleaded not guilty Thursday, and was released on $250,000 (euro185,000) bond. Defense attorney Zach Margulis-Ohnuma described Lopresti as a family man "with deep roots in the community."

Prosecutors allege that one victim was beaten and stomped for "disrespecting" Lopresti by refusing an order to remove a T-shirt tied around his head. The supervisor and other officers responded by beating and kicking the inmate so severely it left "a pool of blood and clumps of the inmate's dreadlocks on the floor of the cell," court papers said.

Afterward, the guards allegedly rigged a bedsheet with a noose on the bars of the cell to make it look as if the victim tried to hang himself.

In the second incident, last April, officers allegedly entered a cell and beat the victim as punishment for fighting with another inmate. A female lieutenant "looked on and taunted the inmate," court papers said.

The officers, while transporting the handcuffed victim in an elevator to a high-security unit, purposely tripped him so he fell face-first onto the floor, the papers said. When he put up a struggle, the guards swarmed and allegedly stomped him into submission.

Prosecutors said the elevator attack was captured on videotape. The tape was not made public.

Bureau of Prisons officials declined to discuss the case beyond a statement saying they were taking the allegations "very seriously."

Lopresti and two of his co-defendants also are named in a pending lawsuit filed in 2002 that alleges that guards at the MDC routinely abused Muslim men detained following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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