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Rikers Correction Officer Convicted Of Smuggling Pot, Other Items

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Rikers Island correction officer was convicted Friday of smuggling drugs and other items into the jail.

As WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the conviction of correction Officer Austin Romain another step toward rooting out the bad actors at Rikers Island, and reforming the troubled institution.

Romain was charged last year along with co-defendant Officer Khalif Phillips of smuggling marijuana, tobacco and scalpels into maximum security facilities and selling them to inmates.

Rikers Correction Officer Convicted Of Smuggling Pot, Other Items

Prosecutors said Romain would collect $300 an ounce for the marijuana from the inmates' wives or girlfriends.

Romain was convicted of the crimes on Friday, while Phillips pleaded guilty earlier this year and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Romain faces up to 10 years in prison.

Meanwhile, the trial continues for former Rikers Capt. Terrence Pendergrass, who is charged with deliberately ignoring the urgent medical needs of an inmate who later died.

On Aug. 18, 2012, inmate Jason Echevarria, who was in a mental health unit, swallowed a powerful disinfectant commonly referred to as a "soap ball" which he was given by a new correction officer after a sewage backup in his cell, officials said.

After he swallowed the disinfectant, other inmates heard Echevarria banging on his cell door and calling for help, officials said.

Two corrections officers informed Pendergrass of the medical emergency, but according to the charges, the captain ignored them, saying that he wouldn't respond unless the problem involved a dead body in a cell, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported.

Echevarria was found dead in his cell the next morning.

If convicted of violating Echevarria's civil rights, Pendergrass also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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