Patch: Woman Gets $500K In Rikers Island Rape Lawsuit

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By Noah Manskar, Patch Staff
Feb 20, 2019

A woman who says she was raped on Rikers Island will get $500,000 under a settlement to a lawsuit she brought against the city.

The woman, identified in court papers as Jane Doe, was raped and sexually assaulted by correction officers Jose Cosme and Leonard McNeil while she was awaiting trial at the Rose M. Singer Center, according to the complaint she filed in Manhattan federal court last August.

In the settlement signed by a judge Feb. 12, the city agreed to the payout in exchange for the dismissal of the suit, which also accused the city of fostering a "culture of systemic rape" at the women's jail.

"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," Marlen Bodden and Barbara Hamilton, the woman's Legal Aid Society attorneys, said in a statement. "This settlement delivers some justice and further underscores the culture of impunity that exists among correctional staff at NYC jail."

The lawsuit detailed Cosme's brutal November 2015 rape of the woman after he learned she and McNeil had allegedly had sexual encounters, which cannot be consensual under state law.

Other Department of Correction staff retaliated against the woman after she reported the abuse by denying her basic necessities such as soap and firing her from work assignments, the suit alleged.

The woman eventually mailed pieces of a T-shirt with Cosme's semen on it to people outside the jail, evidence that eventually got to the Bronx District Attorney's Office, according to the suit.

Cosme had resigned from the Department of Correction as of the day before his guilty plea to a criminal sex act was announced.

He was sentenced to 10 years probation and forced to register as a sex offender. His victim reportedly read a poem at his sentencing. "You hurt me beyond my physical self," she said, according to the New York Daily News.

McNeil still works for the DOC but has been barred from contact with inmates since August 2016, the department said last year.

"The health and safety of those in DOC custody remains a top priority," a spokesman for the city's Law Department said in a statement. "This settlement is a fair resolution of the claims against the city and in the best interest of all parties."