Prison guard sues AG Shapiro over scuttled prosecution
One of seven prison guards named in a highly publicized sexual abuse case three years ago filed a federal lawsuit against Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, accusing him of malicious prosecution after the charges were ultimately dropped.
Shapiro and his office acted recklessly when they charged Lackawanna County Prison guard Paul Voglino with sexually assaulting a female inmate around 2002 or 2003, and should have known the accuser had fabricated her story in hopes of getting a financial payout, the lawsuit said.
Prosecutors quietly dropped the case against Voglino in August 2019, more than a year after his arrest, and he got his job back a few months later.
“The defendants ruined Paul Voglino’s life by filing scurrilous criminal charges against him when they knew the alleged victim had given law enforcement officers false information,” Voglino’s attorneys, Joseph D’Andrea and Timothy Hinton, said in a statement Monday.
“The damage they caused Paul Voglino can never be repaired. We are seeking to hold the defendants accountable and force them to explain why they acted so outrageously,” the statement said.
The suit, filed Friday, accuses Shapiro, two subordinates and a state police trooper of violating Voglino’s civil rights. It seeks monetary damages.
Shapiro’s spokesperson, Jacklin Rhoads, said that prosecutors were following a grand jury’s recommendation in bringing charges. “This lawsuit is nothing but grandstanding and an attempt to distract from the abuse that occurred at Lackawanna County Prison,” said Rhoads, adding that “we will defend our investigation to the fullest extent.”
Shapiro traveled to Scranton for a news conference in February 2018 to announce the results of the grand jury’s probe into what he called a “persistent culture of abuse” that has plagued the scandal-ridden lockup for more than a decade. He said the abuse was widely known, broadly hinting at a cover-up.
Seven guards were charged, but only three of those cases resulted in convictions.
Two of the defendants were acquitted at trial, one case was dismissed, and prosecutors dropped charges against Voglino. Three other defendants pleaded guilty or no contest to reduced charges and received probation or fines.
Separately, a female prison counselor pleaded guilty to official oppression last year for having sex with inmates and was sentenced to at least three months in jail.
State prosecutors have alleged a culture of sexual coercion and cover-up at the jail in Scranton, with the grand jury contending in 2018 that guards traded commissary items, food, cigarettes or extra phone time for sex.
The state’s criminal investigation into the lockup is closed, according to Rhoads.
Lackawanna County and its insurer have paid about $2.5 million in recent years to settle several civil suits alleging sexual abuse by prison employees.