NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — A New York City jail supervisor was charged Monday with criminally negligent homicide in the death of a detainee who hanged himself on her watch last November.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said jail captain Rebecca Hillman showed “callous disregard” for Ryan Wilson by ordering officers not to perform potentially lifesaving measures and leaving him hanging in a locked cell for about 15 minutes.
Hillman pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Monday. She is also charged with lying in her written account of the death that she acted “immediately” to help Wilson. The charges were not eligible for monetary bail, prosecutors said. Her next court date is July 28.
Hillman’s lawyer, Kenneth Montgomery, said she is a “hardworking mother and employee who did her best in a very difficult job that is defined by trauma and tragedy” and that they “look forward to defending the serious charges against her.”
Shortly before Wilson hanged himself, a subordinate officer concerned about the detainee’s wellbeing told Hillman that she was immediately needed in the housing unit, prosecutors said, but she kept doing paperwork in a jail control room instead.
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Wilson, a 29-year-old held at the Manhattan Detention Complex for about a month on a robbery charged, was upset that Hillman was moving him to a different housing unit because of an altercation with another inmate, prosecutors said.
He told the officer he would hang himself unless Hillman let him out of his cell and — after waiting 10 minutes for her — he did, prosecutors said.
Hillman told other inmates that Wilson was “playing” and ordered a subordinate jail officer not to enter Wilson’s cell because she thought he was faking, prosecutors said. Hillman called for non-emergency backup and ordered the cell door locked while she went on her rounds, prosecutors said.
About 15 minutes after Wilson hanged himself, Hillman ordered the door unlocked and allowed officers inside, prosecutors said. He had a faint pulse and was dead by the time medical personnel arrived, prosecutors said.
Wilson suffered from mental illness, according to his family. He served seven years in prison and was released at the start of the pandemic, but he didn’t have any resources to aid in his transition. He was arrested again in October of 2020 for robbery and ended up in the Manhattan Detention Complex.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WPIX contributed to this report.