NEW YORK – A Rikers Island correction officer admitted Tuesday that he lied to a grand jury and conspired to obstruct an investigation into the 2012 beating death of an inmate.
Byron Taylor's plea to two charges in Manhattan federal court Tuesday came over a year after he was arrested along with other guards after an investigation into the death of 52-year-old Ronald Spear.
Prosecutors said another guard repeatedly kicked Spear in the head, and Taylor helped restrain Spear and then lied about his role.
Spear had been receiving regular dialysis treatments and wearing a bracelet warning he was a "risk to fall" as he battled end-stage renal disease. Leading up to the beating, he had gone to see a doctor when he and a guard got into an argument and started jabbing at each other; the guard then punched Spear in the face, according to the criminal complaint.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release that Taylor and others "concocted a story that blamed the victim — who had serious physical ailments — for starting an altercation with correction officers."
The charges carry a maximum potential prison term of 25 years, though the 32-year-old Brentwood, New York, resident agreed in a plea deal not to appeal a sentence of less than 21 months in prison.
Dressed in a suit, Taylor told U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska that he knew what he was doing was illegal and wrong when he teamed with others from late 2012 to April 2015 to obstruct investigators and then perjured himself in April 2015 when he testified before a grand jury.
"Today is me accepting responsibility for my wrongdoing," Taylor said. He said he wanted to "try to make this right and move forward in life."
Taylor, who had been suspended since his arrest, was expected to be terminated following his plea. He and his attorney declined comment as they left court.
A co-conspirator has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. A third defendant, Brian Coll, has pleaded not guilty to charges and is scheduled for trial next month.
Sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 20.