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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Former Pittsburgh Police Sergeant Sentenced to Prison for Depriving Teen of Civil Rights

PITTSBURGH – A former Pittsburgh police sergeant was sentenced to 27 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $900.23 in restitution, for deprivation of rights under color of law, Acting United States Attorney Soo C. Song announced today.

United States District Judge Cathy Bissoon imposed the sentence on Stephen Matakovich, 48, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In calculating the guideline range term of imprisonment in this case, Judge Bissoon found that Stephen Matakovich obstructed justice by testifying falsely in justification of the force he used against the victim.

According to evidence presented at trial in May, on or about Nov. 28, 2015, Matakovich, a police officer of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, willfully deprived Gabriel Despres, then 19, by punching, pushing and repeatedly striking Despres, without justification, thereby causing bodily injury to Despres. The incident, which was captured on video, occurred outside of Heinz Field on Pittsburgh’s North Side during high school football playoffs.

Acting U.S. Attorney Song stated, ““The use of criminal, excessive force by police undermines the safety of men and women in law enforcement, erodes public trust and discourages cooperation by witnesses. This defendant’s violent assault of a 19-year-old and subsequent false testimony, as found by the court, were worthy of a 27-month term of imprisonment.”

"Police officers who abuse the substantial authority they are given not only violate the law, but also undermine the ability of all of the hardworking, responsible officers who serve our community and who strive every day to earn the public trust and promote a culture of fairness, professionalism and respect for the law in their dealings with others," said Robert Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Pittsburgh Field Office. "It's a sad day when a uniformed police officer crosses the line from being a police officer to a criminal defendant and is sent to prison for violating the constitutional rights of a citizen. The sentence handed down by the Court reflects that no one is above the law, and no one has the right to take the law into their own hands."

Assistant United States Attorneys Cindy K. Chung and Stephen S. Gilson prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

Acting U.S. Attorney Song commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police for conducting the investigation that led to the successful prosecution of Matakovich.

Civil Rights
Updated November 19, 2017