Former Allegheny County Jail corrections officer Arii Metz admitted Monday that he punched an inmate in the head more than once, but his defense attorney suggested that the inmate had it coming.
Mr. Metz's plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer set the stage for a June 18 sentencing at which prosecutors could push for about four years in prison for the former guard, while the defense will argue for probation.
Mr. Metz, 34, of Perry North, pleaded guilty to deprivation of civil rights related to the 2010 beating of David Kipp, now 26. Mr. Kipp was jailed after an arrest for assaulting his male partner and on drug charges, and ended up with a broken nose, perforated eardrum and various cuts and bruises.
According to another former guard who witnessed the event, Mr. Metz "walked up to Kipp and started punching him without any provocation," Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy L. Johnston said.
Attorney James Wymard, representing Mr. Metz, countered that the altercation happened only after Mr. Kipp, of Morningside, first used mind-altering drugs and fought his partner. Then Mr. Kipp refused to leave a pre-processing area of the cell, clinging to a commode as Mr. Metz and two other guards attempted to move him to an arraignment area.
Mr. Wymard called Mr. Kipp "a very obstreperous victim."
Then, Mr. Wymard said, Mr. Kipp "was striking his head against the [second cell] door" and "smearing blood all over the cell." He suggested that the broken nose may have happened then.
Mr. Wymard said Mr. Metz then hit Mr. Kipp "more than once, when he went in [the cell] the last time, seeking to calm him down."
At the time Mr. Metz weighed about 113 pounds more than Mr. Kipp.
Ms. Johnston said the government will show at the June 18 sentencing photos of Mr. Kipp when he entered jail virtually uninjured; after the cell extraction, when he showed minor redness of the face; and then following Mr. Metz's punches, when he had "significant swelling" in part from a broken nose that required surgery.
Mr. Kipp, now 26, later pleaded guilty to simple assault for the fight with his friend and was sentenced to probation. He has sued Mr. Metz, two other former corrections officers who were on hand during the incident, jail medical provider Allegheny Correctional Health Services and its chief operating officer, Dana Phillips. He has claimed that, although injured, he was denied hospital care for two days.
Mr. Kipp's civil attorney, Patrick W. Murray, could not be reached for comment.
One of the two other former officers present for the altercation, Marcia Williams, 40, of the North Side, was found guilty at an August trial of official oppression, obstruction of law enforcement and unsworn falsification to authorities, and was sentenced to probation. The third, Timothy C. Miller, was fired but not charged and could be a witness against Mr. Metz at sentencing.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord