NYC Board of Correction
- Trump’s ex-CFO, Allen Weisselberg, was sentenced Tuesday to five months in NYC’s Rikers jail complex.
- Rikers guards love Trump and will give better treatment to Weisselberg, 75, one expert predicts.
- But the executive-turned-tax-felon will still find Rikers’ chaos and filth to be hellish, he said.
Most Rikers guards are big fans of Donald Trump — so the former president’s longtime top money man, Allen Weisselberg, will likely get preferential treatment as he starts his five month stint at New York City’s notorious jail complex, an expert told Insider on Tuesday.
Being 75 years old and in the news will also help Weisselberg, predicted the expert, Five Mualimmak-Ak, a jail-reform activist and former detainee who visits Rikers frequently.
“Ninety-percent of the guards are Trump supporters, even though most of them are Black and Latino women,” because of the former president’s pro-law-and-order beliefs, said Mualimmak-Ak, program director for LIFE Camp, a city-based nonprofit.
The city’s former correction officer’s union head, Norman Seabrook, was vocally pro-Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“So he’ll get preferential treatment from the guards because he is a Trump supporter. They’ll try to protect him,” said Mualimmak-Ak, whose program helps youth and families impacted by violence. “They’ll treat him with a little more dignity.”
Still, Weisselberg’s days in Rikers will be hellish, he said, calling the 6,000-inmate facility filthy, chaotic, and plagued by gang violence and drug use.
Weisselberg himself was concerned enough about the sentence to hire a “jail coach,” a consultant who can help him get through the ordeal safely.
Last year, 19 died in custody, many from suicide or suspected overdoses, according to Gothamist. Advocates and news accounts last year documented understaffing and inmates gone wild, including a New York Times account of gangs forcing detainees to participate in “fight nights.”
“It’s a very brutal environment,’ Mualimmak-Ak said. “It’s horrible, deplorable conditions.”
Located on an island in the East River between Queens and the Bronx, Rikers houses detainees awaiting trial and persons serving sentences of under one year.
Weisselberg was sentenced Tuesday for his admitted role in masterminding a decade-long payroll tax-dodge scheme at the Trump Organization, the former president’s real estate and golf resort business.
Trump’s finance chief since the 1980s, Weisselberg saved $900,000 in personal income taxes — and helped other second-tier executives save hundreds of thousands of dollars more — by systematically hiding income from city, state, and federal tax authorities.
He described the complicated fraud scheme in three days on the witness stand last month, in testimony that was crucial to convicting the Trump Organization on tax fraud but which never implicated Trump himself.
Weisselberg’s first stop at Rikers on Tuesday will be the intake section of the Eric M. Taylor Center, according to the ex-CFO’s jail coach, Craig Rothfeld.
Built in 1964, it’s the facility’s oldest jail building; only the 1932 original Rikers Island Hospital, still in use as an infirmary, is older, according to the city Department of Correction.
Weisselberg will have traveled in a correction van or bus from his sentencing at New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan to Rikers, still in his civilian clothes but with his wrists and legs shackled, Mualimmak-Ak said.
At “EMTC,” as the Eric M. Taylor Center is known, Weisselberg will be fingerprinted, and he’ll trade in his suit for regulation tan pants and white T-shirt.
“Your belt, your socks, your shoelaces, all of that stuff is taken from you because it could be instruments of harm,” he said. “They’ll strip him down to his underwear.”
Then, “You sort of sit there in a cage until they process your paperwork.”
He’ll share the intake waiting cell with 50 to 100 other detainees for days, even a week, Mualimmak-Ak said, until more permanent housing is assigned.
Typically, a single guard will supervise the intake cell.
“There’s a phone, it just doesn’t work,” he added. “There’s a toilet, it just doesn’t work. There’s a sink, it just doesn’t work.”
Eventually, someone like Weisselberg — who has been in the news and is up in years — will likely be given an individual, 6-by-9 cell in a cell block, rather than being housed in an open-dorm setting, Mualimmak-Ak predicted.
Weisselberg’s jail coach, Craig Rothfeld, also predicted that Weisselberg will not be housed in an open dorm, telling Insider recently that the dorms are especially plagued by gang violence.
A cell block will house around 100 detainees, and will have a common area with a television and two guards posted, Rothfeld and Mualimmak-Ak said.
One — the “B-man” — is inside with the detainees. The other is “in a bubble, a Plexiglass station. So if there’s a fight, someone being stabbed, someone hanging themselves, that’s who’s there,” Mualimmak-Ak said.
Only once he’s moved out of intake will he be able to get visitors, Mualimmak-Ak said.
Throughout his stay, Weisselberg will get three meals a day, all brought to him in his cell and almost all of them served cold.
“One day will be pasta salad. Or two cheese pirogi’s. You do get a franks-and-beans meal on Fridays, though a lot of time the hot dogs are green, unfortunately.
“You also get this one fish and cheese patty on Friday nights, with two pieces of bread, and a thing of 1% milk,” he said.
“Most of the food is frozen and defrosted,” and it’s cooked in another building, he added.
“You do get fried chicken once a month — you get one chicken leg. And green beans. That’s it.”
Mualimmak-Ak has testified before the city Board of Correction, and said Tuesday that he hopes Weisselberg’s high-profile stay will call attention to what he and other advocates call Rikers’ inhumane and dangerous conditions.
“I do hope the best for him, and I hope he speaks out about the conditions or his process, because there’s not enough voices.”
The department works to create a safe and supportive environment for everyone in custody, James Boyd, deputy commissioner for public information for the city Department of Correction, said in a statement Monday.
“The health and safety of our staff and every individual in our custody is paramount to us,” he said, adding that no one gets preferential treatment. “Every individual who enters DOC’s custody is housed in accordance with our policies,” he said.