Ex-prison guard sentenced in death of sick inmate

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A former guard at Rikers Island was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 years in prison for violating the civil rights of a sick inmate.

The guard, Brian Coll, 47, was accused of kicking the inmate, who was restrained and ill, to death outside of a prison doctor’s officer. He was also convicted of obstruction of justice, falsifying records and conspiring to cover up the beating.

In December 2012, 52-year-old Ronald Spear was pinned down by other guards while Coll kicked him. According to evidence, the attack caused brain bleeding leading to Spear’s death.

“Mr. Coll kicked a man to death” in a “particularly vicious and callous attack,” U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska said as she announced the sentencing. The judge also noted that Coll had a framed newspaper clipping about the attack, which she characterized as a trophy.

Coll had insisted before the sentencing, “I am not a cold and callous person. I am no killer. … I never had any intent to kill or badly hurt Mr. Spear.”

Preka noted that another officer had tried to stop Coll and that another officer had called out for him to stop.

She also noted that she had imposed a stiffer sentence in order to deter what she characterized as a “culture of violence” at Rikers.