PITTSBURGH, PA – Two former residents of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on federal hate crime charges, United States Attorney Cindy K. Chung announced today.
The twelve-count Indictment unsealed yesterday names Zachary Dinell, 28, formerly of Freedom, Pennsylvania, and Tyler Smith, 31, most recently of New Brighton, Pennsylvania, as defendants.
According to the Indictment, Dinell and Smith were employees of an in-patient health care facility located in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. The Indictment alleges that 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, Dinell and Smith were responsible for providing this daily assistance to residents.
The Indictment further alleges that from approximately June 2016 to September 2017, Dinell and Smith engaged in a conspiracy to commit hate crimes, and did commit hate crimes, against residents of the facility because of the residents’ actual or perceived disabilities. As part of the conspiracy, the Indictment alleges that Dinell and Smith exchanged text messages in which they expressed their animus toward the disabled residents, shared pictures and videos of residents and attacks, described their attacks, and encouraged each other’s continued abuse of residents. Dinell and Smith allegedly carried out their attacks in a variety of ways, including by punching and kicking residents, jumping on residents, rubbing liquid irritants in their eyes, and by spraying liquid irritants in their eyes and mouths.
Dinell and Smith allegedly 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 defendants’ alleged abuse. Dinell and Smith are also charged with engaging in a scheme to conceal their assaults against residents at the facility.
“The defendants are charged with targeting the most vulnerable members of our community because of their disabilities,” said United States Attorney Chung. “The defendants’ alleged hate crimes involved victims who were unable to defend themselves or report what happened to them. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will continue our work to ensure that these victims—and all victims of federal crime—have a voice and that those who would perpetrate violence against them are brought to justice.”
“The actions associated with the charges announced today are disturbing to say the least,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall. “Our office is committed to combating hate crime, seeking justice and, most importantly, providing assistance to victims.”
The maximum penalty for the conspiracy and concealment charges is a term of imprisonment of five years and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for each of the ten hate crime charges is a term of imprisonment of ten years and a $250,000 fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants, among other statutory sentencing factors.
Assistant United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case.
An Indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.