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A Queens Village man in jail for starving his baby daughter on a bizarre vegetarian diet of ground nuts, seeds, herbal teas and fruit juices was slashed by another inmate at Rikers Island on May 29, the city Department of Corrections said.
Joseph Swinton, 32, required 51 stitches on the right side of his face and 16 on the back of his neck following the attack, said Tom Antenen, a spokesman for the department.
The incident took place in the North Infirmary Command - known as the "Celebrity Wing" because high-profile inmates are often housed there under closer monitoring. Antenen said John Gotti and Robert Chambers were among the inmates who had spent time there.
Another inmate was suspected in the assault, and a Bronx grand jury was considering charges against him, Antenen said.
Joseph Swinton was convicted in April along with his wife, Silva, of feeding their daughter a diet so lacking in nutrition that the child weighed only 10 pounds at the age of 16 months.
Doctors from Schneider Children's Hospital, where the child was taken after an anonymous call summoned officials from the Administration for Children's Services to the couple's Queens Village home, testified during the trial that she had severely demineralized bones and suffered from rickets.
State Supreme Court Judge Richard Buchter in Kew Gardens sentenced Silva Swinton to six years in prison but gave her husband the minimum of five year, owing to Joseph Swinton's borderline retarded IQ.
The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a Brooklyn priest who has acted as spiritual adviser to the couple over the past several months, said the attack was an indication that the sentence was inappropriate.
"They shouldn't have been there in a prison setting," Daughtry said. "The punishment was too harsh."
Daughtry said the attack might have been motivated by the "value system in prison," where inmates who have hurt children can be singled out for severe mistreatment.
The minister added that he was in touch with the couple through a relative, Viola Presley, who had indicated that they were doing their best to stay positive in prison.
The couple and their friends and supporters were also raising money and searching for an attorney to handle their appeal.
Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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