Guard at New York City's Rikers jail complex charged with rape

August 26, 2016 5:36 PM EDT

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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A correction officer at New York City's Rikers Island jail complex has been indicted on rape and other charges for engaging in sexual acts with an inmate, prosecutors announced on Friday.

The case against Jose Cosme, 36, marked the latest string of prosecutions targeting Rikers employees in recent years, as authorities seek to stem violence and corruption that has long plagued the city's main jail complex.

"Correction officers or any other staff in Rikers Island cannot use their position to abuse inmates," Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Cosme in November 2015 engaged in sexual intercourse with the female inmate by forcible compulsion. He also engaged in other sexual acts with the inmate, who due to her incarceration is unable to consent, prosecutors said.

Cosme, of Brooklyn, pleaded not guilty in Bronx Supreme Court to charges including first-degree rape, prosecutors said. If convicted of the top count, Cosme could face 50 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Cosme's lawyer declined comment. The New York City Department of Correction did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials are pursuing a raft of reforms following allegations of widespread violence at Rikers Island, which is one of the largest jail complexes in the country and houses approximately 10,000 inmates.

The city is meanwhile defending itself against a proposed class action lawsuit filed last year accusing the city of ignoring a "pervasive culture" of sexual abuse at the women's jail at the Rikers complex.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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