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Press Release

Former Employee of Beaver County Health Care Facility Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison Following Conviction on Federal Hate Crime Charges Related to Assaults Against Disabled Residents

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania
Co-Defendant Previously Sentenced to 17 Years’ Imprisonment

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A resident of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was sentenced in federal court today for conspiring to commit and carrying out hate crimes against numerous severely disabled victims, United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan announced today.

United States District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan sentenced Tyler Smith, 34, of New Brighton, Pennsylvania, to 120 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. Smith previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“Today’s sentencing holds Tyler Smith accountable for the abhorrent and degrading assaults he and Zachary Dinell carried out against more than a dozen victims—simply because they were disabled,” U.S. Attorney Olshan said. “Hate crimes target and terrorize not just individuals but whole communities. Our hope is that today’s result brings some measure of closure to the victims’ families who have shouldered the crushing burden of Smith’s and Dinell’s conduct for so many years. This office and our partners at the FBI will continue to work every day to give voice to the voiceless and protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

“I hope today’s decision brings some comfort to the families impacted by this egregious crime,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Kevin Rojek. “Today’s sentencing shows there is no room for hatred, and crimes against our most vulnerable citizens will be met with the force of justice. The FBI and our partners stand committed to safeguarding the rights and dignity of every individual.”

According to admissions made during Smith’s plea hearing, he and co-defendant Zachary Dinell were employees of an in-patient health care facility located in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Residents of the facility suffered from a range of severe physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities, and required assistance with all activities of daily life, including bathing, using the bathroom, oral hygiene, feeding, and dressing. As members of the facility’s Direct Care Staff, Smith admitted that he and Dinell were responsible for providing this daily assistance to residents.

From approximately June 2016 to September 2017, Smith admitted that he and Dinell engaged in a conspiracy to commit hate crimes against a total of 13 residents of the facility because of the residents’ actual or perceived disabilities. Many of the victims required the use of a wheelchair. Smith and Dinell carried out assaults in a variety of ways, including by punching and kicking residents, rubbing Purell hand sanitizer in their eyes, spraying mouthwash in their eyes and mouths, and, in one instance, removing a resident’s compression stocking in a manner intended to inflict pain. Several of these assaults were recorded on Dinell’s cell phone. In one instance, Smith admitted jumping on top of a 13-year-old minor while the child was lying prone on his bed with the lights off, and while Dinell filmed the incident on his cellular phone. Smith further acknowledged that immediately after recording the video, Dinell texted the video to him.

As part of the conspiracy, Smith also admitted that he and Dinell exchanged graphic text messages in which they expressed their animus toward the disabled residents, shared photographs and videos of residents, described their assaults, and encouraged each other’s continued abuse of residents.

Smith further admitted that he and Dinell were able to avoid detection by, among other things, exploiting their one-on-one access to residents of the facility and the fact that the victims were non-verbal and could not report the defendant’s alleged abuse. Due to their physical disabilities, the residents also were not able to defend themselves against the assaults.

Zachary Dinell previously pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment, followed by three years’ supervised release.

United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan and Assistant United States Attorneys Carolyn J. Bloch and Brendan J. McKenna prosecuted this case on behalf of the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation leading to the charges against Smith and Dinell.

Updated April 19, 2024

Hate Crimes