Decision On Former Lackawanna Prison Guard’s Charges Is Pending
SCRANTON — Magisterial District Judge Paul J. Ware’s decision on whether or not a former Lackawanna County Prison guard will stand trial on charges of sexually abusing an inmate will wait until at least next week.
That’s when memos are due addressing three questions the judge raised during Tuesday’s roughly 40-minute long preliminary hearing for Paul J. Voglino.
Voglino, 45, of 4 Rear Orchard St., Carbondale, is charged with two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, first-degree felonies, based on recent allegations made by a former female inmate of sexual contact between them while she was jailed there between 2002 and 2003.
The Citizens’ Voice does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Ware wants the state attorney general’s office and Voglino’s attorney, Joseph D’Andrea, to fax memos to his office by Monday addressing statue of limitations issues, whether or not the victim’s status as a prisoner has relevance on the statute charged or whether or not the threat of force on this charge could be waived.
Voglino adamantly denies contact with the victim, his attorney said. D’Andrea argued the crime his client is charged with is inappropriate and “reckless.”
At best, the state could charge institutional sexual assault, also a felony, but one where the allegations made would fall well outside the statute of limitations.
“What the commonwealth has tried to do is do something indirectly that they can’t do directly,” D’Andrea said after the hearing. “Shame on them. And, when this case is dismissed, I’m sure that certain civil rights lawyers will be bringing the appropriate action against them.”
Voglino is one of seven former guards at the jail charged in an ongoing statewide grand jury investigation of institutionalized sexual abuse of female inmates there. The attorney general argues that the women were incapable of consent because of their status as inmates. The other six guards already had their preliminary hearings and charges against them were bound for trial.
Voglino is accused of sexual contact with one female inmate in the early 2000s.
The woman testified Tuesday for 17 minutes about Voglino, “Paulie,” as she called him, and how their interactions went beyond a correctional officer/inmate relationship.
She testified that Voglino once took her right hand and placed it on his genitals through his clothes. She pulled her hand away.
On another occasion, Voglino brought her a bag of cocaine and she sniffed it, she testified. Voglino tried to get to her perform oral sex but she was too high, she said. The allegation drew gasps from Voglino’s family seated in the courtroom.
She did perform oral sex on Voglino in a utility closet, she testified.
The woman testified several times that Voglino never threatened her or forced her to perform sex acts, a point D’Andrea would seize on at the end of Tuesday’s hearing.
“It was intimidating in a different fashion,” the woman said.
Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Elo questioned what that meant.
“I felt like I’d already seen how things could go for me if I wasn’t cooperative,” she said.
D’Andrea stressed the woman testified she was never threatened. The fear of retaliation for not going along with a correctional officer’s wishes spoke to the culture that existed at the jail but not the direct actions of his client, D’Andrea said.
Without force or the threat of force, the prosecution falls short of proving an element of the crime that they charged, D’Andrea argued. He said the judge must dismiss the case because of it.
“(She said) I was not threatened,” D’Andrea said. “I wrote it down in big letters.”
Not so, Elo countered. Forcible compulsion, the element of the crime in contention, can include the physical setting or that the person in question has authority.
“She told you she felt obligation,” Elo argued. “She’s seen the consequences. She chose the lesser of two evils.”
Voglino remains free on $25,000 unsecured bail.
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Charges against the six other former Lackawanna County Prison guards:
• Mark Johnson, 54, 2213 Golden Ave., Scranton, faces trial on two counts each of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and institutional sexual assault and one count each of indecent assault and harassment.
• George T. McHale, 51, 513 Florin St., Scranton, faces trial on one count of institutional sexual assault and two counts of indecent assault.
• John Shnipes Jr., 43, 115 Simpson St., Archbald, a former Archbald councilman, faces trial on six counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, four counts of aggravated indecent assault, and two counts each of institutional sexual assault and harassment.
• Jeffrey T. Staff, 42, 459 Wyoming Ave. Apt. 4, Wyoming, faces trial on one count of institutional sexual assault.
• George R. Efthimiou, 50, 1121 Loomis Ave., Taylor, faces trial on two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
• James J. Walsh, 51, 209 Mosswood Road, Roaring Brook Twp., faces trial on four counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.