Four Rikers Island staffers suspended without pay after accidental release of murder suspect

By: 
CHELSIA ROSE MARCIUS and STEPHEN REX BROWN

The blame game over the accidental release of a Rikers Island murder suspect is heating up following the suspension of four jail staffers without pay, including an assistant deputy warden.

The city’s correction union bosses are pointing fingers at Brooklyn Criminal Court workers after Christopher Buggs, 26, was released early Tuesday due to a clerical error. He was listed as eligible for release on “time served” on a still-pending charge of second-degree murder for a 2018 shooting at a Brooklyn deli.

The manhunt for Buggs, considered armed and dangerous, continued Thursday but he remained on the loose.

Assistant Deputy Warden Kevin Roulston, the tour commander in charge of operations at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center on Rikers Island the night of the stunning screwup, was suspended for seven days.

When a Daily News reporter asked Roulston at his home in Laurelton, Queens, on Thursday whether he believed the agency was trying to blame him for the erroneous release, he said, “Yeah they are trying to — but you know I can’t talk to you.”

“You know I can’t say anything to you, I’m an employee,” he added.

Capt. Abraham Palermo was suspended for two weeks. Correction Officers Tanya McCoy and Tamia St. Hilaire were both suspended for 15 days.

Joe Russo, the president of the union representing assistant deputy and deputy wardens, says a court staff clerical error is to blame.

Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio Jr. called for the immediate termination of Warden Sherma Dunbar, who runs Otis Bantum Correctional Center.

“There’s quick rush to judgment on my members but where is the accountability for her?” Boscio told the Daily News on Thursday. “We’re constantly scapegoated in these equations ... Where’s the due process?”

Dunbar was moved from warden of Manhattan Detention Complex to warden of Rikers Island’s George R. Verino Center in January 2020 before being transferred to Otis Bantum Correctional Center after a correction officer was stabbed in the hand in October during a jail gang fight.

In January, an inmate at Otis Bantum Correctional Center who was found with a sheet around his neck also died under her watch, according to an internal Correction Department incident report obtained by The News.

“She’s the commanding officer in all of these equations ... she should be fired,” Boscio said.

Buggs served 30 days on the contempt charge after twice telling a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge on his murder case to “Suck my d---.” The outburst came when the judge declined to allow him out on bail on the murder charge.

Once the 30-day sentence was up, jail staff apparently misread his records and sprung Buggs from Rikers Island, where he was supposed to be held without bail until the murder trial began.