Hamm v. City of New York et al

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Thomas Hamm and his Partner
Status: Closed
Court:
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Issues: Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct

Federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of Thomas Hamm against the City of New York and New York City Department of Correction (DOC) officers and supervisors after a brutal attack on Mr. Hamm while he visited his long-time partner, P.F., at a men’s facility on Rikers Island.

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On May 9, 2014, Thomas Hamm, a gay man, went to visit his partner of many years at Rikers Island. When Mr. Hamm was greeted with a hug and a kiss, the couple were ordered by corrections officers to stop embracing, even though other visitors around them were allowed to embrace. The Department of Correction “Directive on Inmate Visit Procedures” states that “inmates and visitors are permitted to kiss, embrace and hold hands.” The harassment by Department of Correction staff continued when the couple held hands at the table where they were visiting, like many other couples around them were also doing. The correction officers on duty called Mr. Hamm and his partner “faggots” and ordered them to stop holding hands. The officers on duty then abruptly ordered the end of the visit.

As Mr. Hamm was preparing to leave the facility, one of the correction officers who had been harassing the couple said to Mr. Hamm, in sum and substance, “Fucking homosexual, who the fuck do you think you are?” and “You’ll burn in hell.” As Mr. Hamm tried to go, the correction officers grabbed him and viciously beat him, repeatedly punching and kicking him. As his head bled profusely, Mr. Hamm begged the officers to stop. Finally, Mr. Hamm was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was shackled to his bed overnight and diagnosed with facial fractures and head trauma. After his discharge from the hospital, Department of Correction officers took Mr. Hamm back to Rikers, where he was given an order banning him from visiting the facility for 180 days.

Consistent with other reports of notorious violence and cover-ups by correction officers and officials at Rikers, the perpetrators claimed that the 5’6” Mr. Hamm tried to strike an officer during the initial incident. They also omitted to report the violence enacted on him that required hospitalization. Adding further insult to brutal injury, Mr. Hamm was falsely charged with third-degree assault and second-degree harassment. The charges were dismissed.

On September 10, 2018, Mr. Hamm was awarded $280,000 in the resolution of a federal lawsuit against the City of New York and the New York City Department of Correction, its officers and supervisors. In addition to monetary damages, the lawsuit settlement includes a nondiscrimination statement on the record and instructions to Rikers Island officers on the policy for visitors.

The settlement was based on an October 2015 complaint brought against both the City of New York and its Department of Correction officers. The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleged the denial and violation of Mr. Hamm’s federal civil rights under the Constitution’s First, Fourth and 14th Amendments, as well as his New York State civil rights, including the New York Human Rights Law.

The terms of the settlement include a statement on the record from New York City that their policy is to treat all visitors to DOC facilities equally regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, instructions for DOC officers at Rikers Island on the nondiscrimination policy for visitors, and the payment of $280,000 to Mr. Hamm.