September 4, 2015 / 7:18 PM / 3 years ago

New York City correctional officers plead not guilty to assaulting teen inmate

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two New York City correctional officers pled not guilty on Friday to charges that included official misconduct and assault on a teenage inmate at Rikers Island, prosecutors said.

Corrections officers work in the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit at the Rikers Island Correctional facility in New York March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Captain Medzid Kolenovic, 40, is accused of bringing Ambirorix Celedonio, an 18-year-old Rikers inmate, into a supply closet in December and assaulting him.

The two had a verbal spat over Celedonio standing up in the mess hall to get a piece of food from a friend. Kolenovic then brought Celedonio into a supply closet to settle the dispute, according to the indictment by the Bronx County district attorney.

Correction officer Jean Destine, 42, is accused of following them into the closet, where there were no security cameras. When they emerged, Celedonio’s face was bruised and bloodied, according to the indictment.

Attorneys for Kolenovic and Destine could not be reached for comment on Friday.

In written reports following the incident, both Rikers officers claimed Celedonio was the aggressor and that they had used appropriate force in response.

Both officers are in the process of being suspended and no longer have contact with inmates, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said.

Rikers Island, which can house as many as 15,000 inmates in 10 jails, has come under scrutiny in recent years due to claims of inhumane treatment of inmates and the excessive use of solitary confinement.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed in June to carry out reforms at the prison complex in a deal that includes installing more surveillance cameras and appointing a federal monitor to oversee the changes.

If convicted, Kolenovic and Destine face up to four years in prison. They are due back in court on Oct. 8.

Reporting by Katie Reilly; Editing by Lisa Lambert

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