CLEARFIELD – On Wednesday three Clearfield County Jail corrections officers appeared for a preliminary hearing for allegedly being involved with assaulting an inmate in June of last year.
William B. McGroarty, 59, Brian Eugene Showalter, 31, and Jason Hubert Troxell, 41, all of Clearfield, were facing charges of obstructing administration of law, official oppression, simple assault, criminal attempt/simple assault and recklessly endangering another person, all second-degree misdemeanors, and summary harassment.
Deputy Attorney General Bobbi Jo C. Wagner Esq. is prosecuting the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Magisterial District Judge Mike Morris presided over the hearing.
McGroarty and Showalter will stand trial on the charges of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and criminal attempt/simple assault. Morris dismissed the charges of obstructing administration of law, official oppression and harassment. Bail has been set at $1,000 unsecured for both McGroarty and Showalter.
In the third CO’s case, Morris dismissed all charges that were filed against Troxell.
The proceeding was held at the jail and numerous COs crowded into the back of the hearing room. Just prior to the hearing, Morris advised he would permit them to observe, but they must remain quiet or he would have to ask them to leave.
The inmate took the witness stand first for the commonwealth. On the evening of June 7, 2017, he was in the “D Block” and he refused to “lock down” in his cell when ordered to by Troxell. Troxell proceeded to initiate a lock down of his block and called for backup.
Several COs responded to the block to assist with the lock down process. The inmate said he didn’t prevent other inmates from complying with the COs’ orders and was just sitting there. He was refusing to lock down, he said, because he wanted to be moved out of the block.
When he was approached by Showalter, he told him he would “cuff up.” He then turned around and placed his hands behind his back. When asked by Wagner, he testified that he did this voluntarily and the COs weren’t forced to physically move him.
According to the inmate, he was cuffed and transported from the “D Block.” However, his hands were extended over his head and he was bent over facing downward with Showalter on his left and McGroarty on his right.
He testified that his head was struck on six, different doorways as he was led through the jail, and he could feel a “push” coming from his left side.
The inmate indicated that he didn’t believe Troxell was present during his transport. He said McGroarty was on his right side with his hand on his back the entire time.
At the end of his transport, he said he was bleeding from a cut on the top of his head; he had bruising on his face; and he had a cut inside his lip. He was administered first aid and then evaluated by the jail’s medical staff the next day.
The inmate testified that he continues to suffer from headaches and takes ibuprofen. Photographs of his injuries were taken by the deputy warden the morning after the incident and they were presented to the court.
Under cross-examination, the inmate said he didn’t say anything to the COs about his head being struck on the doorways. He denied ever saying he suffered the injuries after falling in the shower or being involved in an altercation with another inmate.
He also admitted that he didn’t file a complaint with the lieutenant and didn’t intend to at first. However, he said the lieutenant made a report to Warden Greg Collins, who discussed it with him, and after giving it some thought, he changed his mind.
Under follow-up questioning by Wagner, the inmate said neither the warden nor the state police investigator forced him to proceed with this complaint. He also said the warden didn’t offer him any benefits in exchange for his testimony.
The second and final witness was retired CO Penny Harper. On the evening of June 7, 2017, she responded to the “D Block,” where an inmate was refusing to lock down. When she arrived, Showalter was cuffing the inmate.
She observed Showalter, on the left, and McGroarty, on the right, escorting the inmate out of the block. She believed Troxell was just ahead of McGroarty.
She didn’t follow the COs and the inmate out immediately and had a vantage point from surveillance. She said there might have been some “stumbling” around due to four people going down the hallway at once.
While she didn’t witness “anybody slamming anybody,” she did say she heard a “thud.” She was then advised to “watch out for the blood” and observed “a little bit” on the floor.
When she saw the inmate, he was receiving first aid treatment for the cut on his head and she got ice. When shown a photograph of the inmate’s injuries under cross-examination, she testified that she didn’t observe anything to that extent.
She later admitted that although she heard the “thud,” she was unable to connect it to any source. She also pointed out that Showalter had some brush burn.
Before ruling on the McGroarty and Showalter cases, Morris commented that injuries aren’t always immediately visible, the cases against McGroarty and Showalter weren’t “clear cut” and it was a “matter for the court to decide on.”
Morris explained that he was dismissing the obstructing administration of law and official oppression charges because there wasn’t any presented testimony showing intent on the part of the COs during the alleged assault.