In the widening fallout from last month’s murder of a teenager on Rikers Island, Correction Commissioner Martin Horn has forced the early retirement of one of the highest-ranking officials in the department.
Assistant Chief Lionel Lorquet was in charge of seven jails, including the Robert N. Davoren Center, where 900 adolescents are housed. He was told to move on this week, in the wake of the murder of Christopher Robinson at the RNDC.
Lorquet’s exit comes only a day after Horn appeared before a City Council committee to explain events at the scandal-ridden teen jail.
Lorquet is only the latest Rikers official to be forced out or reassigned. But it remains unclear whether the reassignments will do anything to correct the problems at RNDC. Advocates for the RNDC prisoners argue that Horn needs to improve the staff-inmate ratio at RNDC of one to 50 and require better training of guards who deal with adolescents.
Three gang-member inmates beat Robinson in his own cell on October 17 (“Teen Murder at Rikers Jail,” November 18). He then slowly bled to death internally over as long as 12 hours, Correction sources said.
Lorquet may have been forced out because he had denied a subordinate’s request to segregate the youth following an earlier fight in another housing area.
Robinson had been involved in an altercation with a member of the Bloods, who dominate many housing areas at Rikers. A deputy warden proposed moving Robinson into a more secure setting, but Lorquet told him there wasn’t enough bed space and said no.
The teen was sent instead to general population, where several Bloods killed him, possibly in reprisal for the earlier incident. Investigators are looking at whether the guards either screwed up and missed Robinson’s beating or condoned the fatal assault.
Referring to Lorquet, Sanford Rubenstein, the lawyer for Robinson’s family, tells the Voice, “Obviously this individual may not have been the only individual who made grave errors in this matter,” he says. “Certainly all those who had any part in this horrible tragedy should be dealt with appropriately.”
Lorquet’s ouster follows the transfers of RNDC Warden Gregory McLaughlin and the teen jail’s two deputy wardens, Mark Scott and Artemio Colon. Horn has also ordered the transfers of wardens at the Eric M. Taylor Center and the George Motchan Detention Center. Sources say other transfers are in the works.
Ironically, Scott and Colon were credited earlier this year with providing information that led to at least one indictment and several firings of officers who colluded with inmates. One officer was indicted for using a group of inmates to beat other inmates who broke the rules (“Rikers Island Fight Club,” April 8, and “What the Jail Guard Saw,” July 3, 2007).
Lorquet has had a long career in the department and earlier this year was chosen to be part of the city’s Leadership Institute.
He earned some fame after he sued the city and won a $325,000 settlement in 2004, alleging that aides of former jails boss William Fraser demoted him and passed him over for promotion because of his support of Mark Green in the 2001 mayoral campaign against Michael Bloomberg.
Fraser was forced to resign after it emerged that he used subordinates to perform renovations on his home. Horn was then tapped to succeed him.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 26, 2008