ShareThis Page

Former Allegheny County Jail major pleads guilty to covering up inmate assault

Brian Bowling
| Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, 12:55 p.m.

A former top Allegheny County Jail administrator pleaded guilty on Monday in federal court to falsifying a report to cover up the fact that he repeatedly punched an inmate in the face when he tried to escape.

James Donis, 50, of Shaler beat Gary W. Barbour, 30, while he was kneeling on the floor and not struggling, prosecutors say.

The former major initially filed a report that said Barbour's face was bleeding when he was recaptured but didn't mention striking him, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaun Sweeney. When he learned the FBI was investigating, Donis filed a new report claiming Barbour was combative and refused to obey orders, Sweeney said.

U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond asked Donis whether Sweeney's summary was accurate.

ā€œIt is, your honor,ā€ Donis said.

Wearing a black suit, Donis said little during the hearing except in response to the judge's questions. He and his attorney, Charles Porter, declined comment afterward.

Under the plea agreement, Donis and the government agree that sentencing guidelines recommend one year to a year and six months in prison.

Diamond said he'll decide whether to accept that agreement after probation officials complete a background investigation of Donis.

The judge told Donis that he likely will order him to pay restitution to Barbour. Donis remains free on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

Sweeney declined comment after the hearing.

A grand jury indicted Donis for depriving Barbour of his civil rights and lying to law enforcement officers in addition to falsifying the report. As part of the plea agreement, the government will drop the other charges.

Ron Barber, one of the attorneys representing Barbour in his civil lawsuit against Donis and eight other guards, said even though Donis didn't plead guilty to violating Barbour's civil rights, he acknowledged committing actions on which those charges are based.

ā€œI think that will be just as useful for my case,ā€ Barber said.

Diamond scheduled Donis' sentencing for Feb. 20.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.