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Layleen Polanco's Mother Files Suit Over Daughter's Death at Rikers

Layleen Polanco

The mother of Layleen Cubilette-Polanco, a Dominican-American trans woman who died on Rikers Island earlier this summer, has filed a complaint against the City of New York and other defendants seeking justice after the death of her daughter.

Acting as the administrator of her daughter’s estate, Aracelis Polanco filed a civil suit on Monday against 29 defendants: the City of New York; Colleen Vessell, Chanze Williams, and Khalilah Fleminster (all municipal officials employed by the city’s Department of Corrections); and 25 unnamed correctional officers.

Represented by David B. Shanies of David B. Shanies Law Office, the plaintiff demands a jury trial for the defendants, alleging that her daughter’s death was highly preventable.

“Layleen is dead because the City of New York and its DOC and Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services (‘CHS’) personnel failed to provide her safe housing, adequate medical care, and proper accommodation for her disabilities,” the suit reads. “She should be alive today.”

Out reached out to Aracelis Polanco’s attorney for comment. We will update the story if we hear back.

Layleen Polanco, also known as Layleen Xtravaganza in New York’s ballroom community, was arrested for a misdemeanor charge on April 13 and held on a $500 bail. Starting in January of next year, New York will no longer require cash bail for low-level offenses like Polanco’s, but Layleen was arrested too soon to benefit from that change. She was incarcerated and sent to the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island to await trial.

Still presumed innocent and awaiting trial, Polanco was placed in punitive segregated housing on May 30 over an alleged disciplinary infraction — a placement that should have never been authorized, the suit argues, due to the 27 year old’s schizophrenia and epilepsy, two conditions that present “a high risk of death or serious bodily injury” and “required heightened supervision.” She was found unresponsive in her cell on June 7 and declared dead. An autopsy report released in July determined that Layleen had died from complications related to epilepsy.

Polanco’s mother seeks compensatory and punitive damages for her daughter’s death in an amount to be determined at trial.

RELATED | Layleen Polanco’s Family Demands Answers Following Autopsy Report

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