Former NYC jail guards avoid prison time for 8-minute delay in helping inmate who attempted suicide

Oct 28, 2023, 12:30 PM | Updated: 1:14 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Two former New York City jail guards have avoided prison time for what authorities called their failure to intervene in a teenage inmate’s suicide attempt for nearly eight minutes until it was too late to save him from serious brain damage in 2019.

Daniel Fullerton and Mark Wilson received conditional discharges after pleading guilty to misdemeanor official misconduct in May and September, respectively, the Daily News reported Friday. They will not serve any time in jail if they stay out of trouble for a year.

Fullerton, Wilson and two other officers were charged in connection with 18-year-old Nicholas Feliciano’s suicide attempt at the Rikers Island jail complex on Nov. 27, 2019. The other officers’ cases remain pending. Feliciano suffered permanent brain damage and needs long-term medical care.

Prosecutors said jail guards were seen on surveillance video walking past Feliciano and taking no action for seven minutes and 51 seconds. An investigation report by the city Board of Correction later found that the officers believed Feliciano was faking a suicide attempt.

The report also says Feliciano had a history of depression and previously had tried to harm himself in jail on multiple occasions. He was at Rikers on a parole violation connected to robbery cases. It recommended several actions, including a system to immediately identify people with prior histories of self-harm while in jail and a reevaluation of mental health training for guards.

The Bronx district attorney’s office issued a statement when the guards were indicted but did not publicly announce Fullerton and Wilson’s guilty pleas and sentences, the Daily News reported. All the guards were initially charged with misdemeanor official misconduct and felony reckless endangerment, which can carry up to seven years in prison.

David Rankin, a lawyer for Feliciano’s family, said they are “gratified” that the two guards took responsibility in pleading guilty. But he added, “It is shocking you can just let someone almost die and you don’t get so much as community service.”

The Bronx district attorney’s office declined to comment.

Contact information for Fullerton and Wilson could not be immediately found in public records Saturday.

Fullerton’s lawyer, Kenneth Montgomery, said Fullerton took immediate action when he saw Feliciano in distress and called the prosecution “heavy-handed.”

“I just thought it was political and overkill,” he said in a phone interview Saturday with The Associated Press.

Information about Wilson’s case and his lawyer was not listed in online court records. Fullerton quit the Correction Department and Wilson was fired, the Daily News reported.

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association also has called the officers’ indictments politically motivated and called on prosecutors to charge inmates who assault guards.

The Rikers Island complex has been criticized in multiple reports for inmate deaths, violence, mold and other problems. In August, a federal judge agreed to begin a process that could wrest control of the city’s troubled jail system from Mayor Eric Adams and place a court-appointed outside authority in charge of Rikers Island.

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Former NYC jail guards avoid prison time for 8-minute delay in helping inmate who attempted suicide