Legal Aid, Cravath Announce Settlement for Client Who Was Raped and Sexually Abused by Doc Officers on Rikers Island

The Legal Aid Society and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP announced a substantial monetary settlement today on behalf of their client, “Jane Doe,” who was repeatedly raped, sexually abused, and sexually harassed by two New York City Department of Correction (DOC) officers while she was a pre-trial detainee on Rikers Island.

This lawsuit was filed in August 2018 against the City of New York and DOC Officers Jose Cosme and Leonard McNeil, in both their individual and official capacities. Cosme pled guilty to a Criminal Sex Act, a felony charge, which required him to register as a sex offender. McNeil is still employed by the DOC.

In 2015, Jane Doe was a detainee awaiting trial at Rikers Island’s Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC.) There, she suffered brutal rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment by Cosme after McNeil conspired with Cosme so Cosme could rape her. McNeil separately also raped, sexually abused, and sexually harassed Jane Doe. As a result of Cosme’s and McNeil’s criminal acts, Jane Doe suffers from severe trauma. After Jane Doe reported the rapes, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, correction staff and inmates retaliated against her. This retaliation included threats to her life and other verbal abuse, as well as denial of the most basic necessities, such as soap.

“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 with the Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “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.”

“No individual should ever be subjected to the abuse and trauma that our client experienced,” said Brittany L. Sukiennik, 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.”