News and Press Releases

Former Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Falsyfing Documents following Inmate Beating

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 15, 2012

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - A resident of Allegheny County, Pa., pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of falsification of a document, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

James Donis, 50, of Glenshaw, Pa., pleaded guilty before Senior United States District Judge Gustave Diamond.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that on April 6, 2010, corrections officers at the Allegheny County Jail noticed that inmate Gary Barbour was missing from his pod on the fourth level of the jail. Corrections officers in the mechanical room eventually located Barbour inside of an air handler. After the officers found Barbour in the darkened area of the air handler, Barbour was led out into the mechanical room. In the mechanical room, Donis punched Barbour several times in the face. Barbour was not resisting the officers in any way before he was punched by Donis. After Donis punched Barbour, Barbour was bleeding from the mouth and nose area. Barbour was escorted by several officers to the medical unit and was later treated at a hospital.

On April 7, 2010, Donis wrote an incident report in which he noted that Barbour was bleeding from his facial area when he was apprehended, but Donis did not state that any force was used on Barbour. In early 2011, the FBI was investigating the incident as a potential violation of the federal civil rights statute. On April 26, 2011, after Donis had become aware of the FBI's investigation, he prepared a supplemental report containing false statements regarding the incident. Specifically, in that report, Donis wrote that, after Barbour was removed from the air handler, Barbour was combative and refused to follow commands and attempted to break free. Donis also wrote that Barbour refused to comply with commands to put his hands behind his back. Donis wrote in his report that he therefore struck Barbour several times with his fist.

"Mr. Donis abused his position of authority" stated U. S. Attorney David Hickton. "He has taken responsibility for all of the charged conduct, and justice will be served."

Judge Diamond scheduled sentencing for Feb. 20, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorneys Shaun E. Sweeney and Amy L. Johnston and Trial Attorney Patricia Sumner of the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Allegheny County Police Department conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Donis.

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