$1.2 Million Settlement in Pro Bono Rikers Island Case

May 9, 2017

Cleary Gottlieb’s pro bono clients Jane Does 1 and 2 reached a $1.2 million settlement with the City of New York on May 1, 2017, and a favorable settlement with Correction Officer Benny Santiago on May 5, 2017.

Each client was arrested, could not afford bail and was accordingly detained at different times over the course of a multi-year period at the Rose M. Singer Center, the all-women jail on Rikers Island. Each contended that, while confined, they were repeatedly raped by Santiago.

The hard-fought case consumed over two years and nearly two-dozen depositions. Trial was set to start on May 9, 2017. At trial, we believed we could show that our clients were only two of many Santiago victims; that there were countless other victims of inmate rape by staff at Rikers; that the culture of indifference at Rikers led to nearly no guards being disciplined by the New York City Department of Correction (even Santiago remains a DOC employee) for rape or sexual abuse; and that allegations of rape and sexual abuse are routinely ignored by the City’s Department of Investigation (and the DOC), and in the few instances in which investigations are undertaken they nearly inevitably lead to the charges being “unsubstantiated.” That was the case for Santiago, even though Cleary’s pro bono lawyers believed that we would have proven that the DOI tampered with physical evidence to remove incriminating DNA, destroyed damning video and audio tapes, and delayed concluding the investigation (such as it was) so long so that Santiago would have a statute of limitations defense against administrative charges.  

This lawsuit has been mentioned in The New York Times, two articles in the New York Daily News here and here, along with pieces from Reuters, Courthouse News, Legal Reader, Broadly and Newsday.

Cleary represented the clients in partnership with Legal Aid Society, the nation’s oldest and largest legal services organization.