The Lackawanna County 7: Guards charged with sexual assault on women prisoners

Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, Penn. – Photo: New York Times

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Few cases are as difficult to prosecute as those involving cops, sheriffs or prison guards. This is so largely because of the popular perception that they’re good guys vs. bad guys – or, in this case, bad girls.

The Lackawanna County 7, local prison guards of the Northeastern County Pennsylvania lockup charged with sexual assaults upon several women, are, after all, charged with sexually assaulting prisoners.

That fact is never lost on either judges or juries.

When the case first broke in mid-2018, it was a regional sensation, and local media had a feast on the story, coming, as it did, amidst the Hollywood MeToo scandals.

But that was then.

Lackawanna County 7 arrested – Photo: WNEP

Shortly after the case hit local newspapers, one of the accused, former Correctional Officer Paul J. Vogline, at a preliminary hearing, had all felony charges dismissed, resulting in a single misdemeanor charge. In early and mid-February 2019, other developments took place in other cases.

Former Correctional Officer George McHale went on trial in February’s first week, and the alleged victim, a woman unnamed in published accounts, took the stand for an hour giving testimony before a local county jury. Two days thereafter, McHale was acquitted on all counts of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, and the case was dismissed.

In several weeks, former Correctional Officer Jeffery Staff would take a plea of nolo contendere – Latin for “no contest.” This is similar to a guilty plea but allows the accused to assert his innocence.

The cases aren’t over, but they seem to be veering toward a direction that suggests neither judges nor juries place much stock in these women’s accounts.

We shall see.

Sources: The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Penn., Feb. 7, 2019; WNEP-TV, PLN, July 2018

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