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$177,500 in Settlements Reached with Detainees Assaulted by Guards at Pennsylvania Jail

by Ashleigh N. Dye

Settlement agreements totaling $177,500 were approved in the winter of 2021-22 by the Board of County Commissioners of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, resolving claims by a pair of former detainees at the county jail who were allegedly assaulted by guards.

The first agreement was approved on December 16, 2021, providing $27,500 to settle the claim of DaRob Wright, who was being booked in the Westmoreland County Prison on unspecified charges on January 11, 2018, when a guard allegedly attacked him, shoving him against a wall and onto the ground before punching him in the face, leaving Wright with a concussion, injury to his back and both eyes, a torn left rotator shoulder cuff and “emotional distress,” according to the complaint he later filed. He was then placed in solitary confinement for 26 days.

Wright filed suit in January 2020 in federal court for the Western District of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, accusing the prison’s then-warden, John Walton, and the guard—later identified as Jeffrey McCreary—of violating his civil rights. Wright also presented documentation of his injuries and described two other guards who allegedly witnessed the assault, which Wright’s Pittsburgh attorney, John D. Newborg, called “completely unjustified.” The parties then proceeded to reach their settlement agreement, which included all costs and fees. See: Wright v. Westmoreland Cty., USDC (W.D. Pa.), Case No. 2:20-cv-00040.

Walton has since left the prison. His replacement, Bryan Kline, said that McCreary was no longer employed there, either, though he gave no further details. The former guard was also named as a defendant in the second suit filed by another detainee at the jail, 33-year-old James Mapp, who said he was assaulted by a group of guards during intake after his arrest for domestic violence in March 2020 because he refused to wear a mask.

Another former guard, James B. Lynn, 39, was fired and charged in 2021 for his role in that incident, pleading guilty to simple assault and official oppression. He received a sentence of two years’ probation.

Mapp, with the aid of Erie attorney John F. Mizner, filed his civil rights suit in the Court in June 2020 against the county and the group of jail guards, including Lynn and McCreary, maintaining that when they tackled and piled atop him for refusing to put on a mask—while he was restrained in handcuffs—they left him with injuries that still plagued him two years later. County commissioners approved a $150,000 settlement in that case on February 14, 2022. See: Mapp v. Westmoreland Cty., USDC (W.D. Pa.), Case No. 2:20-cv-00978.

County Solicitor Melissa Guiddy stressed to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that the county “did not admit liability for Mapp’s injuries” as part of the settlement. That prompted Mizner to file a separate suit for Mapp in the Court on May 13, 2022, accusing the county of breaking the settlement agreement’s confidentiality clause and seeking to enforce collection of another $150,000 in liquidated damages. The County’s motion to dismiss was denied on July 25, 2022, leaving the case to proceed to a trial by a magistrate judge later in the year. See: Mapp v. Westmoreland Cty., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131146.  

Additional source: Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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Related legal cases

Mapp v. Westmoreland Cty.

Wright v. Westmoreland Cty.

Wright v. Westmoreland Cty.