In 2008, Nicolas Pinto was arrested on federal charges of taking explicit photos and videos of children. He subsequently pleaded guilty, and was supposed to be sentenced in October. But due to the glacial wheels of justice, he's spent the last two years in jail...
And while everyone knows that child porn offenders aren't treated well by fellow inmates, his case shows exactly how brutal life behind bars can be.
He was incarcerated at the Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, Pennsylvania. From the beginning, he began keeping a diary on his treatment. Fellow inmates and a prison priest back up his tales of vicious abuse.
In his diary, Pinto wrote that guards would make him stand naked in his cell for days on end and chant "kill yourself" over the prison PA system. A fellow inmate says guards would stomp on Pinto's bare toes, parade him naked around common areas, smack him in the head and throw his food in the garbage. The inmate also said that Pinto would be released from his cell with other inmates, then guards would announce over the PA system, "Go get 'em, boys."
Pinto's diary says he was routinely raped by another inmate he called "the silverback."
"First night is bleeding but no penetration," he wrote. "The next night is full-on jailhouse Bubba."
He reported the rapes to guards, but no one would investigate, says Father William Pickard, the prison chaplain. That led to further rapes, after which the guards refused Pinto medical treatment.
But after Father Pickard complained, he too was banned from the prison after allegedly pushing a guard who refused to let him see Pinto. The priest says the pushing incident never happened.
Without an investigation or any help from guards, Pinto was a marked man. On August 8, he was ambushed by a violent inmate who was supposed to be on lockdown. The man jumped Pinto from behind and stomped on his head with all his strength an estimated 15 times. Then the man returned to his cell to clean the blood off his shoes.
Pinto's face was shattered and he suffered severe brain injuries that left him in a coma.
It's unclear how much of the abuse was officially sanctioned by prison guards. But since we often like to talk about abusing sex offenders in the comments section, it's interesting to see how people view it now after being provided with the grisly details.
So we ask you, dear reader: Did Nicholas Pinto get the treatment he deserved? Or should we still be looking out for the safety of sex offenders, regardless of their crimes? ..Source.. by Pete Kotz
Inmate in prison beating remains in critical condition
Four months before Nicholas Pinto was nearly stomped to death at the Lackawanna County Prison, a priest wrote a letter to the county commissioners warning he feared for the safety of the inmate awaiting sentencing on federal pornography charges, who he said had been sexually assaulted and was a "likely target."
On Sunday, the Rev. William B. Pickard's fears turned into reality inside the protective custody section of Delta Unit.
In a flash of violence allegedly inflicted by another inmate, Mr. Pinto's head was repeatedly stomped, leaving him in the intensive care unit at Community Medical Center. As of late Tuesday, Mr. Pinto was still in critical but stable condition, Scranton police Capt. Carl Graziano said.
The Rev. Pickard, known locally for championing the rights of inmates at the county prison, held his head in his hand and his eyes began to tear Tuesday when he talked about Mr. Pinto and his letter.
"I did all I could do," he said, referring to the letter dated March 30. In the letter, the Rev. Pickard said, "Please seriously consider transferring the victim of mistreatment, Mr. Pinto, to another correctional facility. His outspokenness makes him a likely target of severe institutional retaliation."
No charges had been filed in the assault on Mr. Pinto, and city detectives were still interviewing prison staff and inmates on Tuesday in what authorities have described as an attempted homicide case.
The search for answers into how Mr. Pinto was beaten is not the only investigation prison officials are conducting. They also are investigating another "incident" at CMC when the Rev. Pickard tried to see Mr. Pinto. Until the investigation is completed, the Rev. Pickard has been told "it would be better if he didn't come," said Warden Janine Donate.
Asked what that meant, she said, "he's not permitted in the prison." The Rev. Pickard said prison guards at CMC kept him from seeing Mr. Pinto on Sunday. He said he walked by the guards, who now claim he pushed them. The Rev. Pickard admits he may have "brushed by" the guards.
"Security is so tight around this, it makes me think something is going on," he said Tuesday.
The letter the Rev. Pickard sent to the commissioners referred to a diary Mr. Pinto kept at the prison, which he said contained a "detailed account of sexual assaults" on Mr. Pinto.
The county commissioners were unavailable for comment, but Warden Donate said the incident the Rev. Pickard was referring to happened in 2008 and was later investigated by the prison in 2009, when officials became aware of it. The information was also passed on to the district attorney's office and the U.S. Marshals Service, which is responsible for transporting federal inmates like Mr. Pinto.
"There was no conclusive evidence that an alleged assault occurred in 2008," the warden said. "We found out in 2009. That makes it very difficult when time is of the essence."
The Rev. Pickard's suggestion that Mr. Pinto should be moved to another prison was something beyond her control, she said.
"I don't have authority to move a federal inmate," she said.
The district attorney's office has said the inmate suspected of beating Mr. Pinto was Michael Simonson. Mr. Simonson, 33, is in prison on charges he and another man kidnapped, robbed and killed a 34-year-old musician in Shickshinny, near Berwick in Luzerne County.
Mr. Pinto, who had been arrested on charges he took explicit pictures of children as young as 4 years old, was attacked about 9:30 a.m., Detective Jordan said. Mr. Pinto was in county prison while awaiting sentencing Oct. 7 in federal court by U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik in Scranton. Mr. Pinto agreed in May to plead guilty to production of child pornography. According to the plea agreement, he faces up to 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. ..Source.. by Joe McDonald (Staff Writer)
Pinto beating the latest in a decade of prison problems
Nicholas Pinto is a creep. He confessed to a crime as unfathomable as it is foul, and he belongs behind bars.
He is also a human being, even though he has done his worst to disqualify himself from the considerations that distinction affords.
Mr. Pinto, 29, pleaded guilty in May to producing child pornography and was shipped to Lackawanna County Prison to await sentencing in federal court. He should still be in his cell, but instead he lies comatose in intensive care at Community Medical Center in Scranton, his face pulverized, his brain floating in a lake of blood.
He is breathing and eating through tubes, according to Patrick Rogan, the Scranton lawyer who is preparing a slam-dunk federal civil rights suit against the county and anyone and everyone who can be held legally responsible for his client's condition. The lawsuit will probably require a forklift to file after all the defendants are listed. The taxpayers of Lackawanna County won't be named, but we ultimately will be stuck with the bill.
Police say Mr. Pinto was sent to the hospital by Michael Simonson, who at just 33 has distinguished himself as a genuine menace, charged with murder, attempted murder and related offenses. At his arraignment on the murder charge in a Luzerne County courtroom, he head-butted his co-defendant, who was taken away on a stretcher. Mr. Simonson's penchant for mayhem was well known when he was sent to Lackawanna County Prison, where he should not have had access to a beam of sunlight, let alone Mr. Pinto.
And yet there he was on the morning of Aug. 8 as Mr. Pinto, a protective custody inmate, returned from recreation.
Police say Mr. Simonson, an "administrative custody (known to head-butt without warning)" inmate, punched Mr. Pinto and knocked him to the ground. He then hit and kicked Mr. Pinto before stomping on his head at least 15 times.
How long does it take to stomp on someone's head 15 times? Such statistical information is hard to find, even on the Internet, but I tried it at home with a pillow and it took me an average of 16 seconds. Add to my stomping time the 10 seconds it took me to knock the pillow to the floor and punch and kick it a few times, and you're looking at close to half a minute for the whole attack. On my pillow.
It is unclear how long the attack on Mr. Pinto lasted, and it is unlikely we will ever have anything but witness testimony as a gauge. One of the three correctional officers who were supposed to be minding the store had gone out to his car. Another was on the phone. Who knows what the third may have been distracted by, but The Sunday Times Giant Sudoku puzzle is wildly popular. The coupons are great, too. Just saying.
Fewer guards may explain the slow response, but not the fact that Mr. Simonson apparently was somehow allowed to wipe his sneakers clean with a rag, a misstep that wouldn't be digestible as a plot twist in a TV legal drama. There are but two explanations for such an obvious blunder on the part of the responding officers - gross incompetence or criminal complicity. Which one is acceptable?
Whether the shoes or rag were collected as evidence is also unclear. If they were not, everyone involved in the immediate response to the incident should be fired. From a cannon.
There would be no question about what happened and who is responsible if all areas of the prison where inmates travel were outfitted with cameras that record. Incredibly, some areas of the prison have less video surveillance than the average convenience store. It's likely some inmates were convicted based on the same type of video evidence the prison administration is incapable of producing.
How is such technological stagnation acceptable to the correctional officers union? Recording cameras would undoubtedly enhance the safety of officers and back them up (or not) when things go wrong. On the other hand, cameras would also make the extremely lucrative trafficking of contraband like tobacco much tougher. Somehow, I doubt any grievances would get filed.
Sgt. Bill Shanley, union president, showed up at Wednesday's prison board meeting to suggest an outside investigation of the Pinto beating. After three hours of closed-door talks, the board announced it had already decided to ask the state Department of Corrections to conduct a probe, scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Here's hoping it is more thorough than a three-day inspection conducted in March 2007, after which the department of corrections rated the county prison 100 percent compliant with state standards.
Then-county Commissioner Bob Cordaro and Commissioner A.J. Munchak, who have since been indicted on a raft of federal corruption charges, pointed to the "perfect rating" as irrefutable evidence that the prison had recovered from a 2003 scandal rooted in a Times-Tribune investigation and a pair of grand jury probes that uncovered a host of abuses at the prison. The abuses, which included inmates used as slave labor, brutal beatings and witness intimidation, were a major factor in Mr. Cordaro and Mr. Munchak unseating the previous majority.
"We've overcome a lot," Mr. Cordaro said of the sterling inspection.
Three months later, inmate Shakira Staten gave birth to a baby girl in a prison cell after four hours of labor less than two miles from three hospitals.
The county dodged a multimillion-dollar bullet in what should have been a slam-dunk prison birth lawsuit because Ms. Staten's attorney, Nicholas Fick, dropped the ball. The case was dismissed after he missed filing deadlines. He has appealed, but a reversal seems unlikely.
Mr. Pinto's lawyer is unlikely to have such slippery fingers. Mr. Rogan has been handed a layup, and the only thing between him and the basket is his client's status as an admitted child pornographer. Sympathy for such a wretch is difficult to engender in a jury, but Mr. Rogan will have a baby born in a cage in his back pocket. If she's not enough, there's always Thomas Ogden.
Who was Thomas Ogden? He was a husband and father from Archbald. He is the answer to those who blithely dismiss prison violence with statements like, "Well, if you don't want to get (raped, stomped, or otherwise damaged), stay out of prison."
Mr. Ogden was living proof that not everyone in the county lockup is a rapist, murderer, drug dealer or child pornographer. Some people land there for failing to pay child support, petty theft, DUI, even failure to ensure their children go to school.
Thomas Ogden was 51 when Lackawanna County Judge Chester Harhut sentenced him to 14 days in prison for failing to show up for a parenting class meant to address his 14-year-old daughter's chronic truancy. Mr. Ogden had emphysema, and said he missed the parenting class due to his illness.
Mr. Ogden needed oxygen therapy 24 hours a day, something his family claimed he did not receive at the prison. On June 29, 2005, he complained to prison medical staff that he was having trouble breathing. After what his family claimed was a golden hour that might have saved him, prison officials called an ambulance at 8:32 a.m., and Mr. Ogden was taken to Mercy Hospital.
He was pronounced dead 14 minutes later. Pulmonary embolisms. His wife, Donna, who was also locked up on truancy charges, was released after his death.
Jenine Ikeler, senior disinformation specialist for the Cordaro/Munchak administration, said at the time that prison officials were investigating Mr. Ogden's death. The investigation was deemed "unnecessary," however, after an autopsy determined the death was not suspicious, county Chief of Staff Maria Elkins told me Friday after she spoke with Mrs. Donate.
I had no luck tracking down Mr. Ogden's family, but I'll keep trying. In the meantime, it is enough to know that Mr. Ogden entered the prison with 14 days to serve and left it with 14 minutes to live. And he's not the only inmate who walked into Lackawanna County Prison over the past 10 years and never walked back out.
n Nicholas Pinto now joins the sad roster of Samuel Swan, Frank Demeo, Daniel Jackson and Michael J. Campbell, but with an important asterisk:
n He is still alive. ..Source.. by CHRIS KELLY
Lackawanna County Prison guard sues to get her pay and position back
A Lackawanna County Prison guard who was demoted and had her pay cut $20,000 after a near-fatal inmate beating in 2010 wants her lieutenant rank back and her pay restored.
In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday, county corrections officer Nancy Carroll claims she was punished because of her gender for supposedly violating an unspecified policy while several of her male colleagues received "preferential treatment."
Read the Lawsuit HERE
After inmate Michael Simonson's savage beating of another inmate, Nicholas Pinto, county officials disciplined four employees on duty at the time of the attack including then-Lt. Carroll.
The suit, filed by Pittston-based civil attorney Cynthia L. Pollick, demands the reinstatement of Ms. Carroll's rank and pay, along with awarding her compensation for lost wages, emotional distress and punitive damages.
The suit names Commissioner Corey O'Brien and former Commissioners Michael Washo and A.J. Munchak.
Convicted on federal public corruption charges, Mr. Munchak is serving a seven-year sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, N.C., near Raleigh.
Efforts to reach Mr. Washo, Ms. Pollick and Larry Moran, who represents the county in civil litigation, were unsuccessful Tuesday.
The suit demands a public apology. Her name was disclosed to the media and her reputation was tarnished, the suit claims.
It further claims Ms. Carroll, the county prison's "sole woman lieutenant," had no disciplinary warnings in her file, and she did not violate any policy. ..Source.. by steve mcconnell (staff writer)
Suit filed over beating of inmate
SCRANTON Attorneys representing an inmate savagely beaten by another inmate in Lackawanna County Prison last year will file a federal civil rights lawsuit against a former prison warden, three guards and Lackawanna County.
The suit, which attorneys electronically sent to federal court in Scranton on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by The Times Leader, alleges prison guards stood by as Michael Simonson, 33, of Plains Township, brutally assaulted fellow inmate Nicholas Pinto, 29, of Connecticut, and that the prison failed to properly segregate the two prisoners who were being held in different custody classes and should not have had contact.
Pinto was kicked in the head at least 15 times. He suffered brain damage in the Aug. 8, 2010, attack from which he has not recovered, his lawyers said.
Attorneys filing the suit represent Pinto's mother, Pamela J. Pinto, the guardian of his estate.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages to provide for the care of Pinto for the rest of his life.
One of Pinto's attorneys, Dominic Guerrini of Kline & Specter, Philadelphia, said the suit also will allow a full investigation of the attack. Lackawanna County did not fully disclose the findings of the internal investigation of the incident and prison operating policies it conducted last year, Guerrini charged. Through the suit, he plans to subpoena that report and to initiate an additional investigation.
We are seeking the opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation to find out why it happened and to make sure it never happens again, Guerrini said.
The suit alleges that three guards, Robert Jesso, Michael Mallick and Jason Talutto, were on duty in Pinto's housing unit on Aug. 8. Pinto was attacked by Simonson, who was then awaiting trial in the 2009 murder of Donald Skiff.
Simonson and another man, Elvis Riccardi, were charged with kidnapping Skiff, 34, of Plymouth, in Shickshinny and killing him.
Simonson would later plead guilty to second-degree murder in the Skiff case, for which he received a life sentence, and to attempted murder for attacking Pinto. Riccardi's trial on first-degree murder charges is set to begin April 4.
Pinto was attacked by Simonson as he entered his housing unit after a recreation period outside the unit. At that time, Mallick had -abandoned his post- and gone outside, the suit charges.
Pinto, who was awaiting sentencing on a federal child pornography charge, had been placed in protective custody after being assaulted and raped repeatedly by other inmates in the prison, the suit alleges. Simonson was being held in administrative custody, the highest security level. Protective and administrative custody prisoners were held in separate cells within the same housing unit.
The suit alleges that Talutto and Jesso opened the doors to the housing unit without ensuring Simonson was locked in his cell, and that the corrections officers stayed inside the unit's control room as Pinto was beaten, never taking action to stop the assault.
It also implicates the county and former warden Janine Donate for failing to enforce policies ensuring Simonson and Pinto were segregated and ensuring that all officers remained on duty throughout their shift and properly carried out their duties.
The prison and the officials knew that Nick was vulnerable; they knew that he needed protection and they didn't do anything, Guerrini said. -There were systematic failures here.- ..Source.. by MATT HUGHES