Fifteen minutes passed before Hillman allowed officers to cut Wilson down. By then he barely had a pulse, court documents said. Moments later, he was dead.

On Monday, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Hillman, 38, with criminally negligent homicide and filing a false report of the incident.

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“The death of Ryan Wilson wasn’t just a tragedy — it was a crime,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said in a news release. “This callous disregard for Mr. Wilson’s safety resulted in an irreversible loss to his family and friends, and must be held criminally accountable.”

Hillman pleaded not guilty. In a statement to The Washington Post, Hillman’s lawyer, Kenneth Montgomery, said his client is “a hard-working mother and employee who did her best in a very difficult job that is defined by trauma and tragedy.”

“We look forward to defending the serious charges against her,” Montgomery added.

The charges against Hillman highlight pervasive issues within New York City’s jail system, including a pattern of corrections officers who lied or provided incomplete accounts of altercations with inmates, the New York Times found in a report earlier this month. More than half of 270 corrections officers who were disciplined during a 20-month period filed such reports, the Times reported.

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Wilson’s death also echoes that of Nicholas Feliciano, an 18-year-old inmate held on Rikers Island who tried to hang himself for seven minutes as a captain and five corrections officers stood by and watched. They were later suspended but did not face charges, according to the Times.

Wilson had struggled with his mental health for months before his arrest, his lawyer, Benjamin Pinczewski, told The Post, adding that he had a history of bipolar disorder.

Wilson was released from prison last June after serving seven years for attempted robbery, but struggled to find a job, Pinczewski said. He got involved in a church and was “on a good path,” Pinczewski said, but with no income, soon landed in a shelter.

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In October, Wilson was picked up on a robbery charge. He had been trying to get money for food, Pinczewski said. Given his probation status, Wilson was held in the Manhattan Detention Complex, a jail nicknamed “The Tombs,” until his next hearing, causing his depression and anxiety to worsen. His lawyer said that the jail staff knew of his history with mental illness.

After a November fight with inmates who threatened violent retaliation, Wilson reported the incident and asked Hillman to move him to a different unit. But as the transfer delayed, Wilson’s depression deepened.

On Nov. 22, he told an officer that if Hillman did not move him immediately, he would kill himself. Then he stood on a stool and put the makeshift noose around his neck, court documents said. Alarmed, a corrections officer informed Hillman of Wilson’s threats.

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“This particular officer … took him seriously. As did the other inmates in the cells. … They wanted to help Ryan,” Pinczewski said. “Unfortunately, the captain didn’t care that much.”

Instead of responding to Wilson’s threats, Hillman went into the control room and filled out paperwork, prosecutors said. After 10 minutes, Wilson moved onto his bed, fastened the noose around his neck and began a countdown. He then jumped off the bed.

Soon after, Hillman allegedly went to Wilson’s cell and claimed he was fine. The other officer, who was not able to open the cell without Hillman’s approval, asked her to take action. She then instructed an officer in the control room to open the cell but ordered the officer not to intervene.

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“Rebecca Hillman went to the cell and said look … he’s faking, he’s pretending, it’s not real,” Pinczewski said.

The officers watched as Wilson hanged from the light fixture for 15 minutes, until Hillman instructed officers to cut him down and called for a medical team. Officers then began chest compressions.

“He barely had a pulse, which means if they had taken any action at all, or cut him down, he would have been alive today,” Pinczewski said.

Following Wilson’s death, Hillman filed an official report of what happened, where she falsely stated that she instructed officers to “immediately” cut Wilson down once she opened the cell door, prosecutors said.

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The New York City Department of Investigations obtained surveillance footage from inside the jail that contradicted Hillman’s report, Pinczewski said.

“The charges resulting from this investigation reveal a stunning disregard for life,” DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett said in a news release. “Despite Captain Hillman’s alleged efforts to cover up the circumstances of inmate Ryan Wilson’s death, the investigation by DOI and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office uncovered the truth and held this defendant accountable.”

Hillman was placed on leave during the DOI’s investigation and it is unclear if she will retain her job. The New York Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Pinczewski said he didn’t expect the district attorney’s office to invest time and resources into Wilson’s case, but added that its efforts give him hope that prosecutors will look seriously at other cases involving law enforcement.

“I’m beginning to think maybe with George Floyd, and actions like this, that prosecutors are taking these offenses committed by law enforcement, by prison officials, seriously and looking for justice,” he said.

For Wilson’s family, the charges on Monday gave them a “sense of relief,” Pinczewski said.

“We know that this doesn’t bring Ryan back, but it’s the beginning of justice for us,” Wilson’s sister, Elayna Manson, said at a news conference on Monday.



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Topics #Benjamin Pinczewski #Captain #Cyrus R. Vance Jr. #faking #hang #Hillman #Kenneth Montgomery #Manhattan District Attorneys Office #minutes #prosecutors #Rebecca #Rikers Island #Ryan #The New York Times #watched #Wilson