Legal Aid's Lawsuit on Behalf of Two Women Inmates at Rikers Charging Rape Featured on CNN
THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2015

William Gibney, Director of the Special Litigation Unit in the Criminal Practice, and Seymour W. James, Attorney-in-Chief, were interviewed by CNN for separate reports on the federal lawsuit filed on behalf of two women inmates at Rikers who charged that they were raped by a correction officer.

Bill Gibney appeared on Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield. "Sexual violence is at record proportions in DOC, and rape and other sexual abuse of women are endemic at the Rose M. Singer Center" Seymour James told CNN.

 

 

 

Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield
CNN National
May 26th, 2015  12-1PM

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: Mr. Santiago we do know is currently on modified duty—that’s basically a position where he does not interact with inmates. So a lot of questions about this and the man to answer them: William Gibney. He’s an attorney for Legal Aid Society, the group representing the two women. Bill, thanks for coming in to talk about this. These are really serious allegations. What evidence do you have to back this up?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: Well, there’s a lot of evidence out there. We certainly have the statements of the two plaintiffs that we are representing. We also though—the plaintiff, the second of the women in the litigation, actually gave physical evidence to The Department of Investigation at Rikers Island in an attempt to prove the fact that the rapes had been going…

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: In the way of a medical/clinical exam?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: She was examined. I don’t know the results of that. They have not shared the results of that examination with us but she also gave a pair of jeans to The Department of Investigation that had semen on them from Mr. Santiago so there was clear physical evidence that the rape had occurred and the sexual abuse had occurred.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: And just to be clear, if sex is consensual in that environment it’s still not considered…

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: There’s no such thing as consensual sex between a prisoner and a guard. New York law declares that inmates like people under age are incapable of giving consent. It’s by its very definition rape.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: There’s an allegation here that one of these women who are unnamed—I think they’re Jane Doe #1 & #2 in the allegation…

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: That’s right.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: There’s an allegation here that one of them became pregnant.

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: Not one of our two name plaintiffs but in the complaint are a series of seven other allegations regarding other guards and there was at least one other pregnancy. There may be more among those seven.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: So the alleged inmate who became pregnant is not suing?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: It’s not one of the named…

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: Is she willing to provide evidence in your case? Is she a witness?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: Yes. Yes.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: What happened to the pregnancy?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: Actually that’s several possible ones. One of them ended up in a miscarriage, we believe.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: And is there any DNA testing that was done before effectively there’s no longer a pregnancy to use as evidence?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: I don’t know the results of the investigation in that case but we do know that the woman was very upset about the events that happened at Rikers.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: And she’s willing to testify in any case that may arise?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: She’s willing to provide evidence, yes.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: If a case arises?  

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: Due to all the pressure, not all of the women who we talked to were willing to come forward publically.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: Are they still in prison or in jail?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: One of the named plaintiffs actually still is at Rikers Island.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: One of them. So the others—and I think there are eight others—correct?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: Yes. Not named plaintiffs. Two named plaintiffs…

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: Seven other women and eight corrections officers but only one is named. Why’s that?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: The two women who are named plaintiffs were raped by Benny Santiago…

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: Allegedly.

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: That was why he was the named defendant in this.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor:
But the other officers—I mean, the allegation here is that there was sexual abuse and rape. I mean, these are very serious allegations and yet the names of those other officers…

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: That’s right. We have evidence to back up those allegations.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: But why not name those other officers?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: We opted not to because the women were not willing to come forward and be named plaintiffs in this litigation. They are willing to support and provide evidence. They didn’t want to be named plaintiffs.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: How did this happen? I think a lot of people watch dramatic television and see scripted impossibilities but what are you alleging actually happened because there are cameras everywhere in jails and prisons. There are witnesses everywhere. There’s no privacy in these places. How did these things happen?

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: Exactly. There’s no privacy here. It’s not true that there are cameras everywhere. The places where the guards tend to take the prisoners are places that are not covered by cameras so you see the incidents occur in storage rooms or wash basin areas—areas that are not covered by a camera but we allege that this is a culture of rape. It starts with the inadequate screening of the guards when they’re hired so things like, ‘have you ever been convicted of domestic violence?’ is not being screened for among the guard population. ‘Do you have any pre-existing relationships with prisoners?’ not being screened for. And it goes through the entire process; the investigation... This, as you said, this is a small community. Everyone must have known about it. Nobody recorded it. The DOC says that they have a zero tolerance policy. How does this go on for years and nobody reports it in a small environment, a closed environment like Rose M. Singer?

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: If the allegations are true it really sounds like an episode out of Orange is the New Black. It’s a pretty remarkable series of allegations we’ll continue to follow. We’ll watch what happens and I hope you’ll come back and talk to us about whatever resolution comes of this.

William Gibney, Legal Aid Fund Attorney: Thank you Ashleigh, I really appreciate the interest in this story.

Ashleigh Banfield, Anchor: Bill Gibney, nice to meet you and nice to talk to you. Thank you. I appreciate it.

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