Two supervisors at a juvenile detention center operated by New York City’s child welfare agency were charged by federal prosecutors on Wednesday with assaulting a 16-year-old resident who was awaiting trial and with then trying to cover up the attack.
The charges were filed about a week after the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan called for an outside takeover of the city’s troubled jail system and were another sign of the problems that have plagued New York’s detention of adults and minors.
The two supervisors, Daquan Seymour and Rashawn Walker, were associate youth development specialists at the Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx when the assault occurred, according to the indictment charging them.
After a confrontation between several staff members and a group of center residents, the indictment says, the two men dragged their victim into a room, beat and stomped on him while pinning down his hands and taunted him with profanities, the indictment says.
The resulting injuries included a deep cut to the teenager’s upper lip that required nine stitches, the indictment says. Later, prosecutors said, Mr. Seymour and Mr. Walker sought to hide the attack by filing false reports that omitted mention of it.
“Instead of safeguarding the youth they were entrusted with protecting,” Damian Williams, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement, the men “violently dragged, punched and stomped on” the teenager. On July 17, Mr. Williams called for an outside authority to take control of the city’s jails, including the Rikers Island complex, which are run by the city’s Department of Correction.
The charges against Mr. Seymour and Mr. Walker, both 33, include conspiring to deprive the teenager of his civil rights and falsification of records. They were scheduled to make an initial appearance in Federal District Court in Manhattan late Wednesday. Information about their lawyers was not immediately available.
The Horizon center is run by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. Although it is not operated by the Correction Department, the center, like Rikers, is subject to the scrutiny of a federal monitor under a 2015 consent judgment.
The monitor’s most recent report examining conditions at the center, in April, noted that the child welfare agency had “made important strides in reducing the rate of violence there,” including attacks by staff members on residents. There were no confirmed accusations of such attacks in the second half of last year, the report says.
The assault Mr. Seymour and Mr. Walker are accused of committing came before that, in April 2022, according to the indictment. Their reports documenting the initial confrontation between staff members and residents said the youth they are accused of assaulting had been “escorted back to his assigned room” afterward, the indictment says. Surveillance video contradicts that, the indictment says. It was unclear why it took more than a year to charge the two men.
Mr. Seymour was hired by the child welfare agency in May 2019 and promoted to the youth development specialist position several months later, the indictment says. Mr. Walker was hired by the agency in July 2018 and promoted in early 2021. Both now face suspension and, ultimately, termination from jobs that pay about $77,000 a year, officials said.
An Administration for Children’s Services spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the agency had referred Mr. Seymour and Mr. Walker to the authorities after the incident and that they had “not had contact with any youth since that time.” She added, “We do not and will not accept such behavior.”