New York City Set to Pay a Record $28 Million to Settle Rikers Island Suit

New York City has agreed to pay more than $28 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Nicholas Feliciano, who suffered severe brain damage after he attempted to hang himself in a Rikers Island jail cell as more than half a dozen correction officers stood by.

If approved by a judge, it will be among the largest pretrial settlements ever to be awarded to a single plaintiff in a civil rights case in New York City.

Mr. Feliciano was 18 and had a long history of psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts when he was sent to Rikers in late 2019 on a parole violation. When he tried to hang himself on Nov. 27 of that year, guards watched as he flailed his arms but did not intervene even after he became limp, video footage obtained by The New York Times shows.

The Bronx district attorney filed felony charges against three of the guards and a captain in 2022. Last year, two of the guards pleaded guilty to official misconduct, a misdemeanor, and avoided jail time. The cases against the captain and the remaining officer are pending.

For the past four years, Mr. Feliciano has received round-the-clock care, first at the Bellevue Hospital Center and then at a rehabilitation facility where he must use a walker to get around, said his grandmother, Madeline Feliciano, 57. He cannot eat without assistance, has short-term memory loss and struggles to remember visits with family and friends or the things he did the day before, she said.

Nicholas Feliciano suffered brain damage after he tried to hang himself on Rikers Island.Credit…Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP

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