Roberto Grant has been sentenced to two years of probation for his role in a string of high-end watch shop robberies. At the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal prison in lower Manhattan, he was awaiting punishment when he died in a vicious attack. His death was ruled “undetermined” by an autopsy performed a year and a half later.
They claim that MCC managers and their superiors at the federal Bureau of Prisons lied to them about what transpired the night he died. Grant’s family And they want to know what’s going on.
Despite her belief that her son, Grant, was killed, Crecita Williams, Grant’s mother, confesses that she doesn’t have all the information. “I don’t even like thinking about it because it hurts to know that he couldn’t help himself, or no one was there to help him. At least have his back.”
However, Grant’s death did not make worldwide news or result in any public penalties for the security personnel on duty unlike the suicide of MCC’s most notorious inhabitant, globe-trotting pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The Gumshoe Group and attorney M.J. Williams helped Gothamist/WNYC access nearly 200 pages of medical and investigative information involving Grant’s death. Williams is a transparency champion. Despite an official’s initial assertion that Grant overdosed, the records demonstrate that the 35-year-old died with no narcotics in his system. The extent of his neck wounds, however, suggests that he was choked to death, according to some medical professionals.
Attorney Andrew Laufer, who is representing Grant’s mother and ex-wife, the mother of his twin kids in a federal lawsuit against the jail, said, “In society, you’re only as good as you treat individuals who are most vulnerable”. They are the most susceptible. ” They should be safe doing their time in prison. They shouldn’t have to worry about being murdered.”
It’s easy to miss the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse (MCC) because of its brown, brutalist exterior and its few, dark windows, hidden behind the famous Municipal Building. At least one-third of those who live there haven’t been formally charged with any crime.
It’s been exposed in recent years by Gothamist investigations and other reports that the circumstances inside are tortuous: overcrowding, cells that overflow with sewage, stained glass, and major rat and insect infestations.
At 11:40 p.m. on May 19, 2015, detainees in Grant’s 11 South unit called for aid with a “inmate passed out,” according to an internal jail letter written by the captain of the jail. Officers said that they discovered Grant unresponsive in his bed. In their telling, they performed CPR, transported him to a stretcher, and shocked him with a defibrillator. The only thing that worked was nothing.
Emergency medical personnel escorted Grant under the Brooklyn Bridge to New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. Just after 12:30 a.m., the doctors at the hospital there declared him dead.
When Grant’s mother visited MCC, jail spokesperson Lee Plourde informed her that her son had died from a K2 overdose, according to Grant’s mother. However, the BOP refused to make Plourde accessible for inquiries through its press office in Washington, DC.
That was the only information the family had for the next year and a half. After the family’s lawyer, Andrew Laufer, allegedly filed notice that they intended to challenge the BOP in federal court, the Medical Examiner’s Officer only released the autopsy around the New Year of 2017. The National Association of Medical Examiners considers delays in autopsy beyond 90 days when evaluating whether to provide accreditation to a medical examiner.
Toxicology tests performed on Grant’s body revealed that he had no narcotics in his system. According to medical professionals, strangling is the most likely cause of Grant’s serious neck injuries, which were found during the autopsy.
The autopsy was done by the city’s former deputy chief medical examiner, Jennifer Hammers, according to undated handwritten notes given by the BOP as part of its inquiry documents. It’s clear from these records that Grant had many injuries that aren’t related to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Despite this, the autopsy reports “Undetermined” as the cause and manner of death.
A private practice has opened up for Hammers in Pennsylvania. Spokesman Aja Worthy-Davis for the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office stated that an autopsy has yet to be performed on Grant, and that the office does not comment on particular autopsies. Hammers refused to answer questions, directing them to OCME.
“There’s nothing undetermined about this,” said Tara Godoy, a forensic nurse who runs a national medical forensics firm and regularly testifies about strangulation in court. Gothamist’s files were scrutinized by Godoy. “It’s very, very clear it’s a homicide,” she said.
Furthermore, according to Godoy, Grant was choked to death.
“I don’t think there’s any pathologist that would look at that and say it’s anything other than strangulation,” she said.
Additionally, the autopsy and toxicology findings were examined by Rhode Island-based private forensic pathologist Priya Banerjee. Banerjee said the medical examiner’s results indicate to homicide, despite the fact that she hadn’t seen further information like investigative reports or Grant’s medical history.
“The autopsy showed extensive deep neck injuries, and that to me indicates external trauma inflicted by another person or persons,” Banerjee said. The medical examiner’s mission isn’t to find the killer, she said, but “when I read the injuries in this form, the manner of death would be murder, not ‘undetermined,’ as the autopsy has said in this case.” she added.
According to notes from interviews conducted by the Bureau of Prisons after Grant’s death, investigators appear to be focusing on the potential that Grant was using synthetic marijuana or K2 at the time of his death.
“Heard dude passed out from smoking K2,” one unidentified inmate is noted as saying.
It was then reported that the man had died.
a third mentions Grant, who was affectionately referred to as “Panama” by his fellow inmates, as “smoking with his cellie,” and says that “someone got k-2 on the unit.”
Cannabis-like compounds are created in a lab and may be sprayed onto anything that can be smoked. Although Grant’s blood was explicitly tested for the chemical as part of his autopsy, it can be missed by drug testing. People who are under the control of the state prefer it for these reasons and because it is so inexpensive. Two correctional officers in New York City have been accused of using comic books and court papers drenched in K2 to get the drug into Rikers Island, according to a criminal complaint filed earlier this month.
An component in rat poison was implicated for K2 overdose deaths in 2018 because of the clandestine nature of K2 manufacture, which allows any chemical to be used in the cocktail.
“Heard over the last few days that there is real strong k2 going around,” another prisoner told BOP investigators after Grant’s death. ‘Death’ has been the word of the day.’
Grant, on the other hand, had no narcotics in his system. The degree of the neck injuries would not be explained, even if medications were present, according to Banerjee.
According to Laufer, the attorney for Grant’s family, it appears that Roberto was choked to death by another prisoner. It appears like “everyone is oblivious to what is going on around them.”
Laufer believes that the BOP is ultimately responsible for the death via suffocation. Depositions from MCC guards said that they were meant to monitor Grant’s tier every 30 to 40 minutes, he said in his testimony Laufer claims that just one officer was on duty at the time of Grant’s death, and that only a few times every eight-hour shift were the guards patrolling the area.
“This could very well have been prevented,” he said.
MCC detainees have died in jail during the past decade, but the Bureau of Prisons refuses to disclose the number of deaths. However, between 2016 and 2017, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 897 persons died while in federal custody nationally, a population of nearly 189,000 people on average. Suicide and murder claimed the lives of 87 people. In the same time frame, the authorities labeled 18 fatalities as “unknown” or “other. “
The coronavirus epidemic hit federal correctional facilities, including MCC, last year, infecting 118 employees and prisoners, according to BOP statistics. MCC is one of these facilities. Despite the agency’s refusal to disclose the facility’s current positive test rate, The epidemic has killed 232 people, all but four of whom were inmates, out of the approximately 109,000 tests conducted in BOP institutions since it began.
The Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal prison located across the river in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, has had 472 confirmed illnesses and one fatality. Since Segarra’s death was initially not included in the twice-weekly MDC reports, public defense attorneys have taken issue with the MDC’s administration.
A return to normalcy for the country may be on the horizon now that immunizations are accessible. However, the number of prisoners who have been immunized at MCC has not been disclosed by a BOP official. Merrick Garland’s confirmation as attorney general and the Democratic control of Congress raises the issue of whether the new normal will be as cruel as the old one.
There is a strong relationship between the Justice Department and Congress, which determines its budget and sets the laws that it is required by law to adhere to. Despite this, the agency has a lower profile in the media than, for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s wardens and corrections officials. It’s very uncommon for BOP emergencies to arise, like in the winter of 2019 when MDC in Brooklyn, New York, lost electricity, shutting its doors for a week, even as legislators and courts are demanding for accountability.
Because the Justice Department, which supposedly controls the BOP, is also responsible for defending the agency against lawsuits like the one brought by Mr. Grant’s family, many veteran observers of the BOP aren’t confident that much will change.
David Patton, executive director of the Federal Defenders of New York for the Eastern and Southern Districts, described the BOP as “the most immune to any form of meaningful control or responsibility.” “Because the people who are charged with doing it are their coworkers within the Department of Justice. It’s truly the definition of the fox guarding the henhouse.”
For this report, we were unable to talk to anybody who was directly responsible for BOP monitoring. Rep. Karen Bass, who oversees a House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism, and homeland security, didn’t reply to interview requests from the New York Times. Jerrold
Nadler’s spokesman stated he couldn’t speak to us before our deadline because he wasn’t accessible. Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives.
Roberto Grant was the second of six children born to divorced parents in Brooklyn. He spent much of his childhood traveling between Panama and the United States, where his father was based. Despite their differences, Grant’s mother and Roberto Sr. maintained a cordial relationship, and in the winter of 1989, she began making plans to permanently relocate the family to Panama. To his dismay, Grant learned that Manuel Noriega had been ousted from power by a U.S. military invasion. The battle claimed the life of Roberto Grant Sr., a veteran of the Panamanian armed forces at the time.
Roberto Jr. grew raised in Crown Heights and Brownsville with his mother, Crecita Williams. During his adolescence, Grant was a talented basketball player who loved to show off, pull pranks, and perform street acrobatics.
“He was famous at flipping,” Williams said. “He could flip down the whole block, like three blocks. Flip off a roof, off a building, off a car.”
As Grant got older, he told a federal judge in January 2015, he started “hanging with the wrong crowd.”
Grant had spent most of his adult life in jail by the time he made his final statement to the court. In 2012, after being released from state jail for a crime he committed at the age of 23, Grant reconnected with Nicole Morrison, his high school sweetheart from Brooklyn’s P.S. 316. “A new start” was what Grant referred to when he and his wife relocated to Silver Spring, Maryland. A few months after getting a job cleaning offices, Grant was laid off. Finally, Grant and a group of accomplices launched a series of thefts on the East Coast in the summer of 2013.
These heists were bold, but hardly Ocean’s Eleven-worthy. All of the robberies took place while the stores were open, with the guys breaking in, shattering display cases, and making off with large quantities of expensive timepieces. A New Jersey business owner fired at them during a raid. One of Grant’s crew members in Richmond, Virginia used a stun gun on a store employee and knocked her unconscious, according to prosecutors.
Cartier’s flagship Midtown Manhattan shop was the target of a daring January 2014 smash-and-grab that netted the attackers $700,000 in watches. Using intelligence from the federal government, NYPD detectives pulled over Grant and his co-conspirator Allen Williams in Brooklyn that night. Prosecutors claim they were both wearing watches made by Cartier that had just been purchased off the shelf.
Nicole Morrison thinks Grant was eager to get his new family off to a good start.
He felt he had to catch up or make up for everything he had missed while in jail, she told Gothamist/WNYC. This kind of thinking might lead you down a different path. When he came home, when he tried to do something outside of what he knew and it didn’t work, he just resorted back to where he was comfortable. “
Grant was detained in MCC for the most of 2014. Convicted of one count of conspiracy to steal, Grant was sentenced to two years probation. Judge Robert Patterson heard him in January of this year. “I had to support my family,” Grant told the judge, attributing his crimes to his job loss “I went about it the wrong way. I take full responsibility for my actions. I just want a chance, another chance, to prove that this is not my life anymore.” His legal team requested a 10-year sentence on his behalf. Justice should be handed down in the range of 12 1/2 to 15.
Prior to coming to a conclusion, Patterson passed away from cancer in April of 2015. In the meantime, Grant remained in MCC and awaited a new judge’s decision on punishment. That court date was never set.
Jeffrey Epstein’s death in MCC in August 2019 mirrored Grant’s story in many ways. As Laufer points out, one of the BOP investigators assigned to Grant’s case was previously assigned to investigate the Epstein murder before the FBI took over the investigation. During Epstein’s midnight shift, two guards assigned to watch him were found to have browsed online, dozed, and never approached his area, even though they were required to perform half-hour rounds.
The FBI appears to have taken over the investigation into Grant’s death, much like it did with Epstein. An investigation into the case turned up over 700 pages of papers, the FBI stated in response to a request for public records. A November 2022 completion date has been proposed as the most recent best guess. Inquiries to the FBI press office concerning this were not answered.
Epstein was placed in solitary confinement in MCC’s Special Housing Unit after being released from suicide watch, whilst Grant was placed in the general population. Because of their claimed carelessness, the federal agents arrested Epstein’s guards within months, unlike those who held Grant hostage and have dodged public accountability until date. Since Epstein’s death, the prison has gone through four wardens.
MCC administrators aren’t discussing what they’ve learned from Grant’s death.
“For safety and security reasons we do not discuss internal security procedures,” BOP spokesman Scott Taylor said when asked whether MCC has changed protocol since the incident.
Taylor also declined to discuss the specifics of Grant’s case, citing, “safety, security, and privacy reasons,” and saying, “The official cause of death is determined by the medical examiner and not the Bureau of Prisons.”
During the months preceding up to his death, Grant’s family claims that Michael Kearins, an MCC guard who has now retired, threatened and accused him of using K2. In an evening phone call on a Saturday night, Kearins refused to comment.
“Yeah, I can’t talk about none of that,” he said.
A round of expert interviews is coming to a close between Laufer and BOP attorneys. BOP and Grant’s relatives might go to trial if they do not reach a settlement this year.
“I personally want to sue, not for the money, because it cannot bring my kid back, but for this to show them to never allow this to happen again,” said Williams, who works in a school cafeteria. It’s not going to happen. It only brings me to the cemetery as often as I can.”
Grant’s twin girls have reached the age of maturity of being seven years old. Regardless of the outcome of the case, Williams intends to place a bench and a tree on her son’s gravesite.
This tree should be the same age as my daughters and my boyfriend, she explained.