Corrections Officer Indicted for Crimes Related to Death of Veteran on Rikers: Murder, I Say

pictureframedBronx District Attorney Robert Johnson yesterday announced the indictment of Rikers Island Correction Officer Carol Lackner for failing to tour and inspect the cells of inmates under her charge on the overnight period of February 14-15, 2014, and then making false log entries, claiming that she did her required tour.

It was during that shift that inmate Jerome Murdough , a former Marine who was homeless, died a week after he was sent to Rikers on a misdemeanor trespassing arrest after being unable to pay $2,500 bail. Murdough was not checked on for at least four hours. He was found slumped at the foot of his bed with a pool of vomit and blood on the floor in the early hours of Feb. 15 with an internal body temperature of 103 degrees. Because he was in the mental-observation unit he was supposed to be checked every 15 minutes. He had significant mental health issues including being bipolar. Murdough was just seeking a warm place to sleep on a frigid night last February.

Falsifying Business Records in the 1st Degree (Class E Felony, 6 counts)

Falsifying Business Records in the 2nd Degree (Class A Misdemeanor, 6 counts)

Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree (Class E Felony, 1 count)

Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 2nd Degree (Class A Misdemeanor, 1 count)

Official Misconduct (Class A Misdemeanor, 12 counts)

familywithpicIt is alleged that Lackner, a Rikers Island correction officer, who has been on the job for eight-and-a-half years, was scheduled to work a tour during the late evening and overnight hours at the Anna M. Kross Center’s mental observation unit on February 14th, 2014. It is among the allegations that, despite requirements that she regularly tour the unit, Officer Lackner failed to do so. She made logbook entries claiming she did those tours and the rest of her job during the three hours she was there. The Grand Jury found otherwise. It found that Lackner did not perform her job as set forth by the Department of Correction. Lackner, a resident of Oakland Gardens in Queens, had been earning $76,488 per year. She had been on modified duty since February. She is now suspended.

The arrest and indictment is part of DOI’s ongoing investigation into illegal activity at Rikers Island. That investigation has already resulted in the arrests of 11 Correction Officers, supervisors and other staff that work in the City jails, as well as more than 30 inmates. It has also resulted in multiple disciplinary referrals and a report on issues related to contraband smuggling.

Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters said, “Fabricating documents and covering up misconduct are serious crimes that foster the broader problems of violence, contraband smuggling, and security breaches at the City jails. DOI’s recommendations have already helped bring about significant changes in security and screening and we continue to work with Commissioner Ponte to come up with workable solutions.”

Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte said, “The death of Jerome Murdough was a tragedy. The safety of staff and inmates in the jail system is my top priority. As part of meaningful reform at the Department of Correction, we are doing everything possible to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.”


DOI worked with DOC’s Investigation Division on this matter and Commissioner Peters thanked Commissioner Ponte and his staff, particularly, DOC’s Investigation Division and Supervising Investigator Christina Falzon, for their help throughout this investigation.

Murdough served his nation with distinction. He fell on hard times. Our system failed him and is failing many other veterans and many other individuals with mental illness. This cannot continiue. Too many of those with mental illness are totally overlooked throughout this State and Nation. When Kathleen Canzoniero and I interviewed District Attorney Johnson a week ago this case was brought up in discussing actions against Correction Officers and police officers. I applaud this action by the District Attorney’s office. To me this was murder. Ms. Lackner will be in court in February. Until a conviction, she is presumed innocent.

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