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Westmoreland jail guards accused of assault

Paul Peirce
| Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Washington County man claims in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that he was assaulted by Westmoreland County jail guards in 2008 while serving a sentence at the facility.

John H. Medved, 45, of 713 Washington Ave., Charleroi, alleges that while serving an 11 1/2-to 23-month sentence for drug possession he was roughed up by guards.

Medved claims in the lawsuit that he became involved in a verbal confrontation with an inmate June 6, 2008, when the assault occurred.

According to the lawsuit, jail guards ordered the inmates back to their cells and then Medved was ordered to stand outside of his cell.

The lawsuit, filed by Greensburg attorney Susan Williams, alleges that the guards threw Medved onto the concrete floor and while one guard stepped on his back he was "hogtied" by another guard.

When Medved complained that he couldn't breathe, guards were told "to kick him and make him shut up," the suit alleges.

Medved claims he suffered blunt-force injuries, cuts, bruises, pain and mental anguish. He claims the lingering physical problems have impaired his earning capacity.

"The injuries and damages sustained by Mr. Medved ... are the direct and proximate result of the defendants' failure to properly train, supervise and monitor the staff of the prison, as well as their failure to promulgate appropriate policies concerning the use of force and failing to train its personnel in the appropriate use of force, and as to situations where the use of force is appropriate," the lawsuit states.

He contends that the assault violated his Eighth Amendment right prohibiting states from imposing cruel and unusual punishment.

Medved is seeking unspecified compensatory damages and attorney's fees.

Jail officials said they had not received a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment.

In 2009, four guards were fired after inmate James Edwards claimed he was assaulted. An investigation resulted in the firing of Jonathan Billheimer of Scottdale, Steven Greenawalt of North Huntingdon and Sgts. Randy Miller of Greensburg and Marc Hutchison of North Huntingdon. Guards Christopher Pickard of West Leechburg and Craig Petrus resigned.

Jail officials said they believe Edwards, formerly of New Kensington, was taken from his cell for talking back to a guard. Officials said he was taken to an office where he allegedly was assaulted by two corrections officers while two other guards looked on.

Billheimer, who was fired for allegedly encouraging a guard to lie during the investigation, and Hutchison have filed lawsuits contesting their firings in Common Pleas Court.

District Attorney John Peck's office is continuing to investigate the allegations made by Edwards.

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