CLEARFIELD — Magisterial District Judge Michael Morris dismissed the obstruction and oppression charges filed against three corrections officers accused of assaulting an inmate last year at the Clearfield County Jail.
Morris also dismissed all the charges filed against CO Jason Troxell, 39, of Clearfield, but bound over to court the simple assault, reckless endangerment and harassment charges against the other two guards — William McGroarty, 59, of Clearfield and Brian Showalter, 31, of Clearfield at a preliminary hearing yesterday during Centralized Court held at the Clearfield County Jail.
All three were charged by with obstructing the administration of law or other government function, official oppression-arrest, search etc., simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, criminal attempt-simple assault, all of which are classified as misdemeanors of the second degree and harassment, which is a summary.
All three defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges at the start of the hearing.
However, Morris dismissed the obstructing the administrative of law or other government function and official oppression charges against Showalter and McGroarty and dismissed all the charges against Troxell. Morris also dismissed the criminal attempt-simple assault charge filed against all three corrections officers.
The victim, inmate Larry Tobias, testified that on June 7 at approximately 5 or 6 p.m. he had just taken a shower and was sitting on a table watching television when Troxel asked him to “lock up” or go into his cell and lock the door. However, Tobias said he refused and continued to sit on the table.
Tobias said he then believes Troxell called for backup because several other corrections officers arrived on scene, which included Showalter and McGoarty. He said he and Showalter spoke briefly but said Showalter didn’t give him any commands.
Tobias said he then offered to be “cuffed up” and turned around and put his hands behind his back. He said Showalter handcuffed him and said he was bent over so he was facing down and Showalter and McGroarty led him down the hallway with Showalter on his left side and McGroarty was on his right.
He said they passed two doors in the hallway but on the third door he felt Showalter push him so his head hit the door. Tobias said this occurred six more times as they walked down the hall, with each time the push coming from the left where Showalter was holding him.
He said the collisions cut the top of his head, bruised his face and received a cut inside of his mouth. He said Showalter and McGroarty then placed him in the “sink room” where Showalter poured some hydrogen peroxide on the cut on his head. He said he was examined by the nurse at the jail the next morning who said he needed to have a CAT scan done.
Tobias said he continues to suffer from headaches from the incident.
Tobias said he did not report the incident but he said he heard that the lieutenant reported the incident to the warden and the warden and one or two deputy wardens spoke to him the following day in the warden’s office.
Deputy Attorney General Bobbi Jo Wagner, who prosecuted the case on behalf of the commonwealth, showed Tobias pictures of his injuries, including bruises on his face and a cut on the top of his head that were taken by a deputy warden and said the injuries were accurate.
During cross examination by the defendants’ lawyers, Tobias denied that he had gotten into an altercation with another inmate that same day or that he had slipped in the shower and cut his head. Tobias also said he didn’t know which collision with the doors caused which injuries.
Retired Corrections Officer Penny Harper testified that she was called to the D-block as backup for an inmate who refused to lock down. When she arrived she saw Showalter handcuff Tobias. She said Tobias said something to the affect of “I know what’s coming to me.” Showalter and McGroarty lead Tobias out of the room with Showalter on Tobias’ left and McGroarty on the right.
She said she didn’t see any injuries on Tobias and it appeared he was cooperating. She said she didn’t see what happened in the hallway after Tobias was taken from the room except for briefly seeing security camera video of Tobias being led down the hall with Showalter on the left, McGroarty on the right and Troxell in front of McGroarty. She said she didn’t see anyone slam Tobias into any doors.
She said in the video it didn’t appear that Tobias was struggling with the CO’s but said they were stumbling a bit as they walked because it can be awkward when three people transport an inmate down a hallway.
Near the sixth door, Harper said she heard a loud “thud” and she heard a corrections officer say “watch out for the blood.”
She then went by the nurses station and saw Showalter and Troxell treating Tobias who had a cut on the top of his head. She said she didn’t see any bruises on Tobias’ face but said Showalter had a brush burn.
She said she asked if they needed any ice, and Showalter said they did so she went and got them some.
During closing, Troxell’s attorney T. Brent McCune of Pittsburgh argued that there was no evidence to show his client committed any crime. Morris agreed and dismissed all charges against Troxell.
McGroarty’s attorney Joseph Alexander Paletta of Pittsburgh argued that there is no evidence to show his client had any intent as required for the obstruction and oppression charges. Morris agreed and dismissed those charges against McGroarty and Showalter.
McCune also asked that the simple assault charge be dismissed because there was no evidence of intent or that his client did anything but walk Tobias down the hallway, but Morris said for simple assault the commonwealth has to show that there was intent or the defendant was reckless and said that is something to be decided at a trial.
Showalter’s attorney Anthony DeLuca of Pittsburgh argued that the recklessly endangering another person charge be dismissed saying Tobias didn’t suffer any serious injuries and Harper said she didn’t see any bruises on Tobias’ face.
But Morris said bruising sometimes doesn’t show up immediately after an injury and bound over the recklessly endangering charge.
All three defendants are free on $1,000 unsecured bail.