Woman Raped by Rikers Guard Wins $500,000 Suit Against City

The entrance to Rikers Island.  Eagle  file photo by David Brand.

The entrance to Rikers Island. Eagle file photo by David Brand.

By David Brand

A woman who was repeatedly raped by a Department of Corrections officer at Rikers Island where she was locked up in pretrial detention won a $500,000 settlement against the city and the two officers who she said assaulted her.

The woman, known as “Jane Doe,” was raped by officer Jose Cosme when she was detained at the Rose M. Singer Center. Doe also accused Correction Officer Leonard McNeil of taping her as well, but he was not indicted.

The Legal Aid Society and the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP filed the lawsuit on her behalf in August 2018.

“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,” said Marlen Bodden and Barbara Hamilton, staff attorneys at Legal Aid’s Special Litigation Unit in a joint statement. “This settlement delivers some justice and further underscores the culture of impunity that exists among correctional staff at NYC jails. We hope other people who have suffered similar trauma at Rikers Island or other local jails will speak out and seek justice.”

Doe mailed a piece of her clothing after Cosme raped her in 2015 so that it could be tested for DNA.

Cosme pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Criminal Sex Act and registered as a sex offender.

McNeil is still employed by Corrections but has been on modified duty with no contact with inmates since Aug. 10, 2016, DOC said.

After Doe reported the rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, she faced retaliation from corrections staff, her attorneys said.

“No individual should ever be subjected to the abuse and trauma that our client experienced,” said Brittany L. Sukiennik, an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. “This settlement is a small measure of justice for an exceptionally strong woman who has experienced unfathomable trauma. We are hopeful that cases like this will persuade the City to take any and all steps necessary to ensure that the constitutional and human rights of individuals in custody are protected and held sacrosanct.”