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Press Release

Middlesex County, NJ, Man Sentenced To 18 Months In Prison For Attempted Escape From Hospital While In Federal Custody

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. – A Middlesex County, N.J., man who was in custody awaiting a hearing for allegedly violating conditions of his federal supervised release was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for attempting to flee from a Trenton hospital, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Joseph Vitale, 59, of Milltown, N.J., pleaded guilty on Nov. 8, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Trenton federal court to an Information charging him with attempted escape. 

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On March 12, 2008, Vitale was convicted in U.S. District Court of bank fraud. He was sentenced to prison and released in April 2009, when he began serving five years of supervised release. In January 2012, Vitale was charged with violating several conditions of his supervised release and was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshal’s Service on Feb. 7, 2012. After making an appearance in court, Vitale complained of chest pains and was taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, where he was placed in the custody of a private security service that has a contract with the U.S. Marshal’s Service to provide security for federal prisoners being treated at the hospital. Vitale remained under 24-hour armed guard.

On Feb. 13, 2012, as one of the security guards was adjusting Vitale’s leg restraints, Vitale ran out of his room, evaded the two security guards, and ran down the hallway in an attempt to escape. The two security guards ran down the hallway after Vitale and yelled at him to stop. At one point, Vitale screamed, “I’m getting the (expletive) out of here.” The two security guards caught up to Vitale and while attempting to subdue him, one of the security guards struck his knees on the floor. Vitale continued to struggle with the security guards and made several attempts to grab one of their guns, but he was unable to remove it from its holster. With the assistance of at least one other individual, the security guards were able to subdue Vitale and handcuff him.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Wolfson sentenced Vitale to three years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited deputy marshals of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, under the direction of U.S. Marshal Juan Mattos Jr., with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan W. Romankow of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit.


Defense counsel: David Schafer Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Trenton

Updated March 18, 2015