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Former Woods Run prison guards sue Corrections officials over unfair suspensions

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Three former guards at the state prison at Woods Run sued four Department of Corrections officials on Thursday, claiming they were unfairly suspended during an ongoing prison abuse scandal.

Guards Sean Storey, Kevin Johnson and Jerome Lynch sued Corrections Secretary John E. Wetzel, Deputy Secretary Shirley M. Smeal and former Superintendents Daniel Burns and Melvin Lockett.

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Lockett suspended the men without explanation on April 1, 2011, and without pay or benefits, which is in violation of a union contract.

Johnson had a due process hearing on Feb. 28, according to the lawsuit, and Storey and Lynch had one on March 30. Attorney Eric C. Stoltenberg, representing all three men, said Storey resigned around the time of his hearing.

“He quit out of complete frustration. He was completely fed up with the Department of Corrections, they way they trampled on his civil rights,” Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said Lynch filed a grievance in connection with his firing. Lynch faces a Feb. 5 jury trial on charges including simple assault.

Johnson wasn't charged and is still employed at the prison. But he is awaiting an arbitration hearing because he was demoted from sergeant to corrections officer, Stoltenberg said.

All three men are demanding lost wages, compensation for paying toward health benefits and other related financial issues. The Department of Corrections declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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