Corrections Officer Admits to Sexual Assault Gets No Jail Time
On June 8th, a New York corrections officer at Rikers Island admitted to sexual assault of a female inmate but thanks to a plea deal he will receive no jail time. As part of the deal, Jose Cosme admitted to a “criminal sexual act”. Cosme was originally charged with first degree rape and related charges. Thus, he faced up to fifty years in jail. Instead of any jail time Cosme lost his job, must register as a sex offender, and is on probation for ten years.
The assault took place in a storage closet at the Rikers Island all women’s detention center, which has a history of inmate abuse. Cosme forced the victim into a storage closet so as to be out of view of security cameras. Because of an inmate’s incarcerated status, legally, an inmate is not able to consent to a sexual. In the Cosme case he admits to oral sex with the inmate but the District Attorney and the victim allege more sexual acts took place. The inmate’s boyfriend said, “She felt violated,” “She’s always said, ‘He violated me.’ This really affected her.”
The Daily News first reported on the incident in August of 2016. At that time, the victim told the Daily News, Cosme had a blank look on his face during the alleged rape “like he wasn’t there.” The victim feared corrections officers would not believe her story so she mailed her soiled shirt which contained Cosme’s DNA to relatives to preserve evidence of the assault.
The Rikers Island correction facility is notorious for abuse and scandal allegations. In perhaps the most notorious case of recent, Rikers held a 16 year-old boy, Kalief Browder, for three years without ever giving him a trial or finding him guilty. His alleged crime was stealing a backpack. According to the New York Times he spent almost two of those years in solitary confinement. After Browder’s eventual release, he struggled with the after effects of his time at Rikers and in solitary confinement. He eventually killed himself at his parent’s home at the age of 22.
Rikers Island is also no stranger to sexual assault and inmate abuse allegations. In 2015 the Legal Aid Society brought a civil case against New York City alleging officer Benny Santiago repeatedly sexual assaulted two inmates at Rikers. According to the Daily News, the lawsuit claimed Rikers was home to a “pervasive culture of rape” where monstrous correction officers retaliate against inmates who blow the whistle. The Benny Santiago lawsuit named the same Rose M. Singer Center where Cosme raped his victim. New York City ultimately settled with the two inmates for $1.2 million. The inmates later settled with Santiago himself for an undisclosed amount.