Niagara Gazette

Local News

October 27, 2013

Documents on Attica riot ordered unsealed


Niagara Gazette — In all, 11 staff and 32 inmates died — all but four shot by troopers and correction officers who fired hundreds of rounds in six minutes storming the prison’s D Yard on Sept. 13, 1971. An additional 89 men were wounded. The inmates were demanding better conditions and amnesty for the riot itself.

Known as the Meyer Commission Report for the late judge who headed the investigation, the 570-page document was divided into volumes. The first with broad findings and recommendations was released, but the others were sealed in 1981 because they contain grand jury testimony.

Published four years after the riot, the first volume said 62 inmates had been indicted for various offenses, but the grand jury investigation should continue and consider all possible crimes by authorities. The original grand jury refused to indict in four cases brought against law enforcement personnel. One trooper was later indicted on a charge of reckless endangerment in 1975.

The commission report emphasized “important omissions” in the evidence gathered by state police afterward and the possible conflict of interest with troopers investigating their fellow officers’ actions in retaking the prison. It found no intentional cover-up by prosecutors but faulted police for bad planning and failing to account for the rifles, shotguns and pistols used and bullets, slugs and buckshot fired by individual officers.

Gov. Hugh Carey effectively ended official scrutiny of the uprising in 1976 when he pardoned seven inmates and barred disciplinary action against 20 of the troopers and prison guards among the hundreds of officers who retook the prison. He also commuted the murder sentence of inmate John Hill, who was found guilty of beating guard William Quinn to death. The report concluded Quinn and three inmates were killed by prisoners.

It isn’t clear when the judge will rule.

In 2005, the state reached a $12 million settlement with survivors and families of prison staff caught in the uprising. About 150 claims were filed.

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