An inmate in Rikers Island has filed a lawsuit last week alleging that a guard sexually assaulted him while he was sick with COVID-19 in December 2020.

Frederick Romano, a 44-year-old man imprisoned for violating his parole by smoking marijuana, was reportedly in his cell in the communicable disease unit in Rikers Island when Correction Officer Kenwyn Richards went into his quarters and offered a cigarette, according to the New York Daily News.

Richards then asked if Romano “played,” before grabbing Romano’s hand and putting it on his crotch. While Romano attempted to stop the officer’s assault on him, Richards continued the alleged assault.

“Romano was shocked and very frightened. He felt he was alone and trapped in the room with CO Richards and had no way of escaping this sexual assault,” according to the lawsuit.

Romano ran out of the cell screaming before Richards caught up with him and told him not to tell anybody about the assault. He apologized later for his actions, but Romano reported the assault to the Correction Department, who says that Romano’s claims are unsubstantiated.

Regardless of the outcome, Romano seeks to find closure regarding the assault that he experienced.

“This sexual assault never should have happened. [The department] must be held accountable for hiring and retaining such an obvious sexual predator,” Jon Norinsberg, Romano’s attorney, said.

This report comes as conditions in Rikers Island continue to deteriorate. Over 13 people being held in the prison have died in the past year, with some cases being caused by suicide and others through medical episodes where they lacked proper care and supplies from the facilities.

Victor Mercado, a 64-year-old held for a weapons charge and possession of a controlled substance, died due to COVID-19 on Friday. His family, at the time, had been fighting for a lower bail amount as Mercado’s health worsened in the prison, according to ABC 7.

A judge granted his conditional release, but an hour after that, he was reported dead.

Frederick Romano, a former inmate of Rikers Island, is filing a bombshell lawsuit after allegedly being sexually assaulted by Corrections Officer Kenwyn Richards while he had COVID-19. Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

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