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Former Pa. jail guard to serve term in Ohio facility

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By Adam Brandolph
Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 11:48 p.m.

A former Allegheny County Jail guard convicted of beating an inmate cannot stay in a community correctional facility because, in part, its administrators cannot guarantee his safety.

U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond on Wednesday ordered James Donis, 50, of Shaler to serve part of his sentence in a facility run by Community Corrections Association in Youngstown, Ohio.

“I don't see where I have an alternative,” Diamond said. “Home confinement was not acceptable because it would not promote respect for the law.”

Donis, once the fourth-in-command at the jail, pleaded guilty in October to beating inmate Gary W. Barbour in April 2010 and later falsifying reports to cover it up. In February, Diamond sentenced Donis to five years of probation and eight months at Renewal Inc., a Downtown community correctional facility.

Administrators at Renewal refused to accept Donis because some residents are former inmates from the jail, Donis knows some of the guards, and their policy prohibits residents from working for family members. Donis planned to hold a job at Perrytowne Drafthouse in Ross, which his wife owns.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy L. Johnston said neither Renewal nor CCA would permit Donis to work at his wife's business because there was little oversight to verify whether he showed up each day.

Donis' attorney Charles Porter argued it would be difficult for Donis to find a job that pays a convicted felon $50,000 a year.

“I don't think it's reasonable,” Porter told the judge. “This makes zero sense.”

Porter said he was not sure if he'll appeal the decision because Donis “wants to move on with his life.”

Authorities said Donis punched Barbour several times in the face after he bungled an escape attempt. A year later, when Donis learned the FBI was investigating, he prepared a false addendum to his report saying Barbour was “combative” and “refused to comply with commands.” The U.S. Attorney's Office charged Donis in November 2011.

On March 14, federal Magistrate Lisa Pupo Lenihan ordered two former high-ranking jail officials, Thomas Leicht, the ex-chief of Internal Affairs at the jail, and Lance Bohn, the former No. 2 leader, to be joined to Barbour's civil lawsuit against the county.

Bohn, 42, of Swissvale, who blamed Donis for the beating and other guards for failing to stop it, admitted to federal investigators that he was in a utility room when Donis beat Barbour and was granted immunity from prosecution. Leicht, 50, was forced out of his job in 2011. He told FBI agents that officials above him lied about the incident.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or writer Carl Prine contributed to this report.

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