Prison guards accused of inmate beatings

The Westmoreland County Prison Board yesterday fired four corrections officers allegedly involved in an inmate-beating scandal that is under investigation by the district attorney.

Two other guards connected with the brutality allegations have resigned, while another who had been suspended was reinstated yesterday.

The board’s actions stemmed from a complaint by former inmate James Edwards, 27.

Mr. Edwards accused four guards of manhandling him during his stay at the county jail between June 4 and June 16. County officials said his injuries were not severe, and the warden said X-rays were negative. Continue reading

Ex-guard attests to alleged inmate abuse at Westmoreland County Prison

A Westmoreland County Prison inmate was taken out of his cell, punched, choked, kicked and threatened with death as punishment for talking back to a guard, according to a statement given by a corrections officer who said he witnessed the incident.

Part-time guard Christopher Pickard of West Leechburg told investigators that union officials and several other officers concocted a cover story after the assault on James Edwards, 27, and attempted to persuade Pickard to go along with it to derail an internal investigation, according to his written statement. Continue reading

Guard fired after locking new hire in with inmate

A western Pennsylvania county prison guard has been fired over a prank in which a new guard was locked in a cell with an inmate involved in a police shootout. Blair County officials didn’t release the guards’ names, but confirmed the incident after The Altoona Mirror received an anonymous report.

The report said the new guard was locked with the inmate for 20 minutes by a guard who wanted to see what the new hire was made of.

The inmate, accused of shooting at Altoona police in November, filed a complaint with the NAACP.

But Blair County Commissioner Terry Tomassetti said the new hire was the target, not the inmate.

Tomassetti says it was “just picking on a new employee,” but still serious, and officials don’t want it to happen again


Ex-guard gets probation for forcing inmates to sing nursery rhymes, bark like dogs

A former corrections officer at Westmoreland County Prison will serve probation after pleading guilty Monday to forcing inmates to kneel and sing nursery rhymes and bark like dogs.

Scott A. Rogers, 39, of Mt. Pleasant was a 10-year guard before he was charged with three misdemeanor charges of official oppression. He was sentenced yesterday to serve nine months on probation by Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway. Continue reading

Prison guard accused of faking medical excuses

A prison guard at SCI-Greensburg was charged Tuesday with forging various doctor’s excuses over a three-year period to call off work.

Dennis F. Blevins, 50, of 145 Front St., Blairsville, was arraigned before Hempfield District Judge Mark Mansour on one charge of theft of services and 15 counts each of forgery and tampering with public records. Continue reading

Ex-prison guard to stand trial

A former Fayette County corrections officer who was fired for allegedly smuggling tobacco and prescription narcotics into the county jail was held for trial on criminal charges Tuesday after a preliminary hearing.

Tim Hamborsky, 48, of Connellsville, is charged by the Fayette County Drug Task Force with possessing a controlled substance, possessing with intent to deliver and bringing contraband into a prison. Continue reading

Prison guard facing charges fired

A Fayette County prison guard accused of smuggling contraband into the jail in exchange for $75 was fired Wednesday from the job he had worked for 21 years.

The prison board voted unanimously to terminate Tim Hamborsky, 48, of 732 N. Belleview Road, Connellsville, from his position as a corrections officer at the county jail.

Hamborsky lost his job one week after he allegedly was caught on tape smuggling narcotics and tobacco into the Fayette County Prison. He was charged last week by the Fayette County Drug Task Force with possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver and bringing contraband into a prison.

The charges were the result of a sting operation carried out just feet from the prison entrance on Court Street — and within view of District Attorney Nancy Vernon’s office in the adjacent courthouse.

Vernon yesterday said she and officers from the task force videotaped Hamborsky from her office window as the guard retrieved the narcotics from a hiding place under newspaper vending machines. The machines are located directly under Vernon’s window in the courthouse.

“I said to myself, ‘I can’t believe he’s doing this,'” Vernon said, shortly after she and other members of the prison board approved Hamborsky’s dismissal.

Warden Larry Medlock recommended the termination on the grounds Hamborsky committed an act unbecoming a corrections officer by bringing contraband into the prison and had the intent to deliver an item to an inmate without the warden’s approval.

The termination took effect immediately.

According to a criminal complaint filed with the charges, a police informant asked Hamborsky to take four Vicodin tablets and tobacco into the prison. In exchange, Hamborsky was to receive $75.

Vernon said Hamborsky went to the newspaper boxes at 11:30 p.m. Nov. 5, then entered the prison to begin his shift. He was greeted by Medlock and Detective Thomas O’Barto of the drug task force. O’Barto found the tablets, tobacco and money in Hamborsky’s sleeve, according to the criminal complaint.

In addition to his job, Hamborsky risks losing his retirement benefits if convicted. According to a county employee handbook, the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act provides for loss of benefits for anyone who is convicted of a crime related to their employment.

Vernon said Hamborsky could face jail time if convicted of the felony offenses. She said any plea bargain she offers will call for a prison sentence.

Hamborsky faces a preliminary hearing 9:45 a.m. Nov. 25 at the Uniontown office of former District Judge Mark Blair. He is free on $25,000 unsecured bond.