NY Corrections Captain Sentenced to Jail for ‘Negligent Homicide’ in Death of Prisoner

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash.com

By Hailey Cairns and Cynthia Hoang-Duong

MANHATTAN, NY —  In New York’s first-ever criminal case involving a prison officer convicted and sentenced for criminally negligent homicide, former Department of Corrections captain Rebecca Hillman has been found guilty and sentenced to six months in jail, according to an announcement by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr. Friday.

On March 14, a New York State Supreme Court jury reached a guilty verdict for Hillman, in response to her misconduct on Nov. 22, 2020 when she prevented another staff member from saving Ryan Wilson, a prisoner at Manhattan Detention Complex (“MDC”), as noted in a statement issued by Bragg’s office.

The statement charged Hillman, serving as Department of Correction Captain, intended to have Wilson relocated to a different housing unit. Wilson, earlier that day, engaged in an argument with another incarcerated individual.

But, noted the DA, Wilson used his bedsheets to tie a noose and attach it to the light fixture in his cell. An officer arrived after Wilson called and threatened to hang himself if Hillman did not come to release him from his cell.

The officer, according to the DA, contacted Hillman “to inform her that she was needed immediately in the housing unit. Instead, Hillman went into the control room, where she began filling out paperwork… Mr. Wilson moved onto his bed, his neck in the noose, began a countdown, and jumped off the bed. The officer, who saw Mr. Wilson jump, called for the cell to be opened immediately so he could cut him down.”

But Hillman, as written by the court, “ordered the same officer…who was holding a tool to cut the noose Mr. Wilson had fashioned – not to enter and cut Mr. Wilson down, saying that he was fine and was ‘playing around.’

“(Hillman) then casually looked inside and said that Mr. Wilson was faking it because he was still breathing…(Hillman) ordered that the cell door be closed, leaving Mr. Wilson hanging alone inside the locked cell.  She left the area to do her usual work, including completing entries in a log book and walking around the unit.”

Bragg’s office said about 15 minutes after Wilson jumped, Hillman “finally gave the order to open the cell again and called for a medical team. Officers in the area cut Mr. Wilson down, felt a faint pulse, and began chest compressions. When medical personnel arrived a few minutes later, Mr. Wilson was already dead.”

When announcing the determined sentence after the investigation and her conviction, Manhattan DA Bragg stated, “Rebecca Hillman’s negligence and shocking lack of regard for Ryan Wilson’s well-being led to his death. I hope this sentencing can help close what I know has been an incredibly traumatic time for Mr. Wilson’s family and loved ones.”

NY Dept. of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber added, “Her dereliction of duty had tragic consequences, and I hope today’s sentence provides some measure of justice for Wilson’s family. I thank the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for this successful prosecution and the Department of Correction for its assistance.”

Regarding her disregard for Wilson’s distress, Strauber said, “Ryan Wilson might still be alive today had Rebecca Hillman taken the urgent, appropriate action required of a Department of Correction captain whose job was to protect him, and all persons in custody. Instead, she chose to do nothing.”

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