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Jeannette man convicted of assaulting prison guard appeals sentence

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, 6:48 p.m.
Derrick Deon Cobbs
Derrick Deon Cobbs

A Jeannette man claims his 20-year prison sentence for assaulting a prison guard while he awaited trial for rape is illegal.

The lawyer for Derrick Cobbs, 40, filed an appeal on Wednesday challenging the penalty set in 2012 by Common Pleas Court Judge Al Bell as well as the jury verdict finding him guilty of two counts of aggravated assault.

Defense attorney James Robinson said Cobbs' constitutional rights were violated during the trial in which evidence “so undermined the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place.”

The prosecution contended Cobbs became enraged that green beans were mixed with pasta on his dinner plate in the Westmoreland County Prison and put one guard in a choke hold during a melee that ensued. The jury acquitted Cobbs on a charge of attempted murder.

Jurors saw surveillance video of the incident at the prison.

Prior defense lawyers presented an inadequate defense, Robinson contends.

Robinson claims the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison imposed by Bell is now illegal and should be vacated.

Cobbs was sentenced in 2014 to serve up to 40 years in prison for the 2009 rape of a Jeannette woman and other drug offenses.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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