Minister claims she was beaten by corrections officers while visiting son at Rikers Island

Posted at 9:47 PM, Nov 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-30 21:47:23-05

RIKERS ISLAND, N.Y. -- She's built a reputation for helping the needy, but now a community minister is saying that she needs justice herself, after she was arrested while visiting Rikers Island and ended up losing consciousness from her injuries in the incident.

A judge ultimately acquitted her of all charges.

"They put my hands behind my back," said Tieasha Stephens, 41, "and threw me to the floor." That was the beginning of how Stephens was handled by a corrections officer and a supervising captain at the visitors' pavilion at the incarceration facility on New Years Day 2015.

A doctor's assessment form that was completed within a couple of hours after her arrest showed that Stephens had visible tenderness to her neck and other injuries after she'd passed out in officers' custody.

The facts of the case are simple. Stephens brought two ten dollar bills into the facility with her when she'd arrived to see her son, who was incarcerated at the time. Money is considered contraband at the jail.

What happens next is under dispute.

Stephens insists that she found the money in a pants pocket during a search performed just prior to entering the jail. The Department of Corrections workers who encountered her say the money fell to floor from Stephens' waistband.

The DOC also says in arrest documents that Stephens pushed the captain who had informed her at the scene that she was in violation of the law.

Stephens denied the allegation, in an interview with PIX11 News. "It would be insane," she said, "for me to push [someone] with all those guards in there."

Still, the city charged her with a half dozen serious offenses, including attempted assault, prison contraband, resisting arrest and obstructing government activity.

The situation had been her word against that of the Department of Corrections. There was one way, though, to prove who was right.

However, it was significantly compromised.

"Every video, every report disappeared," said Manuel Gomez, a private investigator working for Stephens. "What more evidence is there than [this is] a coverup?"

Rikers has an extensive surveillance camera system in virtually all of its spaces. However, the lack of evidence to which Gomez referred led a judge recently to drop all of the charges against Stephens, after they'd been on her record for nearly two years.

"It shows every judge is not bad," said Stephens, "everyone in authority is not bad."

Her attorney, however, said that justice is not complete for his client. "She'll file a lawsuit," said lawyer John Scola, "but nothing will make up the time she lost."

For its part, the Department of Corrections does not comment about personnel matters or about issues of litigation.