Statewide grand jury investigation into sex abuse at Lackawanna County Prison has concluded

Aug. 4—A statewide grand jury investigation into sex abuse at Lackawanna County Prison has concluded, the state lawyer basic’s workplace wrote in an electronic mail.

When precisely the probe — which was prosecuted by the lawyer basic’s workplace and resulted within the 2018 arrests of seven jail guards on sex abuse fees — concluded is unclear, however Lackawanna County has not incurred new prices for authorized {and professional} companies stemming from the investigation since final yr. The complete price of these companies stands at about $1.02 million.

Of the seven guards arrested, 4 have been both cleared of all fees or noticed their circumstances dropped or dismissed previous to trial.

Through January 2020, the county had additionally paid about $1.3 million in salaries to 10 staff implicated within the sexual abuse scandal who have been positioned on paid go away at various occasions. It’s not instantly clear how a lot that complete could have climbed since, however officers mentioned the entire staff have been both cleared and reinstated or now not work for the county.

County basic counsel Donald Frederickson mentioned paper information seized by state investigators in a sweeping September 2017 raid of a number of county buildings, together with the jail, have been voluntarily returned in June 2020. Investigators additionally seized a county electronic mail server throughout the raid, which was returned below courtroom order in December 2017.

The bulk of the county’s authorized prices — $663,477.36 paid to the Scranton legislation agency Myers, Brier & Kelly — stem from a authorized battle with the lawyer basic’s workplace over the return of supplies seized within the raid and efforts to make sure confidential data on the e-mail server not related to the jail probe was protected against disclosure, Frederickson mentioned.

County Controller Gary DiBileo offered figures for different prices the county incurred associated to the investigation. The totals by legislation agency or firm paid are: Robert J. Donatoni & Associates, $32,450; Donatoni & Crichton, $72,562.50; Montgomery McCracken, $44,588.39; Conrad O’Brien, PC, $27,112.50; J. Riley & Associates, $64,237.50; Scanlon, Howley & Doherty, $39,109.05; Rodgers Castor, $44,535.79; and TwoByTwo Solutions LLC, a pc forensics consulting agency, $34,060.60.

Frederickson mentioned in 2019 these payments largely account for the price of attorneys who accompanied former and present county staff summoned to testify earlier than the grand jury.

The grand jury probe purported to reveal systemic sexual abuse of a number of inmates that went unabated for years, however the explosive allegations faltered below authorized scrutiny.

George T. McHale and Mark A. Johnson have been every acquitted by juries.

Prosecutors dropped fees towards Paul J. Voglino, who’s suing state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and three others, alleging investigators filed the costs with out absolutely investigating the credibility of his accuser. The defendants filed a pending movement to dismiss that lawsuit.

Fired by the county after being criminally charged, McHale, Johnson and Voglino have been all rehired and finally reinstated from durations on paid administrative go away following inside evaluations.

A choose dismissed fees towards former guard John Shnipes Jr. based mostly on a 2013 nonprosecution settlement between Shnipes and the Lackawanna County district lawyer’s workplace.

Jeffrey T. Staff and George R. Efthimiou pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of official oppression and James J. Walsh pleaded responsible to harassment — all enormously diminished fees.

The identical statewide grand jury investigation additionally led to felony counts towards former jail worker Samantha Heinrich, who was charged in April 2019 with two counts of institutional sexual assault for partaking in sex acts with two male inmates whereas she was a corrections counselor at the jail. Heinrich pleaded responsible in February 2020 to 2 lesser counts of official oppression and was sentenced in May 2020 to serve three to 18 months in jail, adopted by two years of probation.

Another 4 staff who have been named in a 2016 civil lawsuit alleging sexual abuse however by no means charged with a criminal offense — Robert Maguire, William Shanley, Edward Williams and Charles Betress — spent lengthy durations on paid administrative go away. The county settled that lawsuit in 2019.

Of the 4, Maguire retired June 22, 2020; Williams and Betress have been cleared and reinstated Feb. 12, 2020; and Shanley, the present deputy warden of safety at the jail, was cleared and returned to work April 15, 2020, in line with data the county offered final yr.

The county final paid a authorized invoice stemming from the jail probe on Oct. 29, 2020, for companies Myers, Brier & Kelly rendered earlier that yr.

Contact the author: jhorv[email protected]; 570-348-9141; @jhorvathTT on Twitter.

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