Pennsylvania Jail Guard Who Assaulted Prisoner Gets Home Confinement, Probation
by Michael Brodheim
federal judge in Pittsburgh said it was the first time in her six years on the federal bench that she had agreed to a sentence reduction due to a defendant’s family considerations.
On December 20, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Nora Barry Fischer sentenced former Allegheny County jail guard Arii Metz, 35, to 14 months on home confinement, concurrent with five years of probation, for beating a prisoner in 2010. Based on sentencing guidelines for his offense, Metz could have received from 41 to 51 months in federal prison.
“Quite simply, the court does not believe anyone else is presently capable of taking care” of Metz’s 7-year-old son, Fischer said. She noted that Metz’s son had been diagnosed with extreme separation anxiety, and said she chose to protect the child while still punishing the father.
Metz must also serve 200 hours of community service, pay a $2,000 fine and $651.39 to the prisoner’s estate, and continue to make payments toward $7,500 in damages awarded to the prisoner in a civil lawsuit. Fischer also ordered Metz to take anger management classes and secure psychiatric help for his son.
Metz expressed gratitude for the judge’s leniency.
“I’m just glad it’s finally over,” he said. “It’s been the longest three years of my life.”
Metz pleaded guilty in March 2013 to violating the civil rights of prisoner David Kipp, 27, who was arrested by Pittsburgh police on assault charges on October 13, 2010. After he was placed in the Allegheny County jail, Kipp repeatedly used the call button in his cell to request access to his medication. Metz, the guard then on duty, responded by entering Kipp’s cell and repeatedly striking him in the face. The beating left Kipp with a broken nose, ruptured blood vessels in his eyes and a perforated eardrum.
Kipp filed a lawsuit and U.S. District Court Judge Terrence McVerry held that he was entitled to $3,000 in compensatory damages and $4,500 in punitive damages for his injuries. Judge McVerry described Metz’s conduct as “outrageous” and “a malicious and wanton violation of Kipp’s rights.” According to the § 1983 complaint, Kipp was not only beaten by Metz but also by another guard, Timothy Miller. In March 2013, Kipp reached an undisclosed settlement with Miller.
The lawsuit claimed that a third guard, Marcia Williams, stood and watched while the beating occurred. In August 2012, Williams was convicted of obstructing justice and making false statements, and sentenced to one year of probation.
Kipp’s complaint further alleged that in an attempt to cover up his beating, Allegheny County jail staff delayed getting him the medical attention he needed. In March 2013 he entered into a settlement with Allegheny County Correctional Health Services and its president, Dana Phillips. See: Kipp v. Allegheny County, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Penn.), Case No. 2:11-cv-01553-TFM. [See: PLN, Nov. 2013, p.56].
Kipp died suddenly and unexpectedly in December 2013; his beating and lawsuit helped to expose a pattern of excessive force at the Allegheny County jail.
For example, former Maj. James Donis, 51, pleaded guilty in federal court in October 2012 to falsifying a report to cover up a beating administered to Allegheny County jail prisoner Gary W. Barbour, Jr. following a failed escape attempt in 2010. Donis admitted to repeatedly punching Barbour when he was recaptured. [See: PLN, Nov. 2012, p.40].
Allegheny County agreed to pay $80,000 to Barbour to settle his lawsuit related to the beating. Although the county is frequently dismissed from excessive force complaints because plaintiffs are unable to prove that a policy or practice led to the incident, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan refused to grant the county’s motion to dismiss after Barbour provided evidence of at least four previous incidents involving prisoners being assaulted by guards at the jail. The remaining parties reached a settlement in July 2014. See: Barbour v. Allegheny County, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Penn.), Case No. 2:11-cv-01291-LPL.
Donis was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house, concurrent with five years of probation, for his role in Barbour’s beating.
Additional sources: Associated Press, http://triblive.com, www.wpxi.com
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Related legal case
Barbour v. Allegheny County
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (W.D. Penn.), Case No. 2:11-cv-01291-LPL|