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3 Westmoreland jail guards cleared in beating

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 10:30 a.m.

A federal jury in Pittsburgh exonerated three Westmoreland County jail guards of beating an inmate after an escape attempt in 2005.

The jurors ruled last Friday that Lt. John Hostoffer and corrections officers Marc Hutchison and Moises Rosado did not use excessive force during the questioning of Eric Miskovitch, 35, after jail officials learned he had tried to escape.

"It's rewarding to see we were exonerated on all charges," said Warden John Walton.

In addition, jurors found that Dr. Norberto Rodriquez, a psychiatrist at the Allegheny County Jail, did not violate Miskovitch's rights while he was an inmate there by administering an antipscyhotic drug to treat his mental illness.

Miskovitch, who originally is from Springdale in Allegheny County, is serving 7 1/2 to 15 years in state prison for a series of robberies and a kidnapping in 2004.

While in the Westmoreland jail, Miskovitch forced open a door to a section of the ceiling and crawled around a ventilator shaft trying to find a way out of the lockup in Hempfield. His escape was blocked by a barred window that Miskovitch could not open, so he returned to his cell.

Officers received a tip from an inmate that Miskovitch was trying to escape. They went to his cell and discovered a dirty prison uniform, extra clothes and sheets that they believed he planned to tie together to use in the escape. Also confiscated was a sock filled with tools that Miskovitch had fashioned.

Officers removed him from his cell to question him in a nearby office. Miskovitch claimed in a lawsuit he was beaten there.

He initially sued Walton, Deputy Warden Steve Cmar, Commissioner Tom Balya and then-commissioners Tom Ceraso and Phil Light, but a judge dropped them as defendants last year.

Claiming to be on a "mission from God," Miskovitch eluded police by stealing five cars, a motorcycle and a bicycle in a single day. He was being sought for kidnapping a Tarentum woman, robbing a fast-food restaurant in Allegheny Township and then leading police on a high-speed pursuit before he eventually was captured in Allegheny County.

He pleaded guilty but mentally ill last year in Allegheny County to robbery and kidnapping charges.

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