A New York prison guard has appeared in court six months after she was slapped with homicide charges having allegedly ordered staff to ignore a prisoner she knew was hanging himself – then claiming the man was ‘playing’ after he had already died.
Capt. Rebecca Hillman, 38, appeared in Manhattan Supreme court on Friday.
In April, she was charged with criminally negligent homicide and offering a false instrument for filing over the suicide of Ryan Wilson last year.
Wilson, 29, died on November 22 last year in his prison cell at Manhattan Detention Complex, which is known as The Tombs.
Prison officers were accused of waiting 15 minutes to call for help and to administer aid to the dying man despite seeing him hanging from a noose.
Hillman had already been suspended without pay along with Correction officer Oscar Rojo over Wilson’s death.
Department of Corrections Capt. Rebecca Hillman is pictured as she walked into Manhattan Supreme Court on negligent homicide charges for the April 26 2021 incident when an inmate in her custody hung himself as allegedly she ignored him.
Corrections Captain Rebecca Hillman is seen in Manhattan Supreme Court on Friday
Department of Corrections Capt. Rebecca Hillman did not want to answer any reporters questions on Friday
Hillman appeared in court wearing dark sunglasses and a face mask in an effort to shield her face from view as she walked into court on Friday. She held her hand up to her face as she refused to answer any questions posed by reporters.
Hillman had turned herself in to authorities in April but was released on bail. If convicted at trial, she faces up to four years in prison.
Hillman is accused of not taking Wilson’s threats to commit suicide seriously and of ordering a more junior staff member to lock his cell door and leave him after seeing him hanging in his cell.
According to prosecutors, Hillman, who was supervising the area at the time, moved Wilson to a new cell and unit on the afternoon of November 22 after he had an argument with another inmate.
Ryan Wilson, 29, (above) died on November 22 last year in his prison cell at Manhattan Detention Complex
Manhattan Detention Complex in NYC is pictured above. It is known as The Tombs
Wilson, whose family says he struggled with mental health problems, fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and attached it to a light fixture.
He then told another correction officer – identified as Rojo, per the New York Times – that he would hang himself if Hillman would not let him out of the locked cell, according to court documents.
While this officer allegedly tried to calm Wilson down and called for Hillman to come to the scene, the captain allegedly ignored the request and started filling out paperwork.
After around 10 minutes, Wilson then jumped off his bed hanging himself by the noose attached to his neck, prosecutors said.
De Capt. Rebecca Hillman, a Department of Correction captain was charged in April with homicide after she allegedly ordered staff to ignore an inmate she saw committing suicide, telling them he was just ‘playing’.
Hillman, seen in black, attempted to wave away cameras and reporters as she entered court
Capt. Hillman put her face up in an attempt to shield herself from the glare of photographers
The officer called for the cell door to be unlocked so they could cut Wilson down, they said.
But Hillman, who arrived outside the cell at this point, allegedly dismissed the seriousness of the incident, saying the 29-year-old was ‘playing’.
Prosecutors said Hillman then allowed the cell door to be opened but ordered the officer not to enter and cut Wilson down, claiming he was ‘faking it’.
Hillman then allegedly ordered the cell door shut again and called for non-emergency backup, before leaving the area to carry on with other work.
Wilson was left hanging in his locked cell alone for 15 minutes before the captain finally ordered the cell to be opened and emergency medical assistance to be given, prosecutors said.
He was finally cut down and was pronounced dead minutes later.
Following his death, prosecutors said Hillman filed a false report about the incident claiming she had ‘immediately’ ordered the cell door to be opened and Wilson to be cut down.
Hillman, 38, is pictured walking into court Friday (above) having been charged in April
Hillman is pictured walking into the court building. If convicted, she faces up to four years in prison
Hillman is pictured during an earlier hearing, in April of 2021 as she tried to hide her face from view with a hood, baseball cap, dark glasses and a mask
She also claimed she had first moved Wilson to the new unit at his own request, according to the court documents.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has said Wilson’s death ‘wasn’t just a tragedy, it was a crime’ accusing Hillman of ‘callous disregard for Mr. Wilson’s safety.’
‘Our investigation shows that Captain Hillman ordered her subordinates not to take potentially life-saving measures to help Mr. Wilson, and failed to call for medical assistance expediently,’ he said.
Earlier this year, community activist Reverend Kevin McCall called the charges a ‘step in the right direction’ for Wilson’s family as he called for the captain to also be fired.
‘We’re not satisfied, because this correction officer, this captain who took an oath to protect the inmates and provide safety for the inmates is still working for the Correction Department,’ McCall said.
Wilson’s sister Elayna Manson said at the time of Hillman being charged: ‘We know this doesn’t bring Ryan back, but it’s the beginning of justice for us.’
Wilson, who had bipolar disorder, had been released from Sing Sing Correctional Facility last summer, his family said.
He was then arrested on robbery charges on October 27, 2020.
Hillman, far left, is accused of not taking Wilson’s threats to commit suicide seriously and of ordering a more junior staff member to lock his cell door and leave him after seeing him hanging in his cell
Hillman has already pleaded not guilty to the felony charges brought against her in April
Hillman turned herself in to authorities in April after being indicted on the charges
Manson said her brother ‘should’ve been under watch.
‘The extra care my brother needed because of his mental illness, he didn’t get that. That wasn’t provided for him at all… It’s frustrating, it’s hurtful. They should lose their jobs.’
Rojo has not been charged over Wilson’s death.
Following Rojo’s suspension a GoFundMe was set up to fundraise for the suspended correction officer.
It read: ‘This fundraiser is for our brother Officer Rojo who is currently suspended for unfortunate circumstances! He is a standup officer who always does his job and needs our help in this difficult time.’
Ryan Wilson, 29, seen here with his sister Elayna Manson, suffered from bipolar disorder
Wilson had been arrested on robbery charges on October 27. In November a Manhattan District Attorney’s Office spokesperson said a $1 parole hold on an open misdemeanor case was ‘the only thing’ keeping him locked up otherwise he would have been approved for release
Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrated outside the detention center following Wilson’s death with Hawk Newsome telling the crowd: ‘An officer saw him hanging, informed his captain and they dismissed this man hanging in the cell as a joke.
‘They said that he was just playing around.’
Correction Department officials also launched an investigation into Wilson’s death.
Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
Correction Officer Oscar Rojo, pictured, was also suspended after the death of Ryan Wilson