An inmate has been found not guilty of assaulting a Cambria County corrections officer who was injured while attempting to break up a fight between the inmate and another prisoner.
Travis Simms, 28, of Johnstown, testified that he did not intend to injure Corrections Officer Terry Shean when Shean was breaking up the fight between Simms and another inmate on Oct. 20.
The jury deliberated for about an hour during the one-day trial Friday before returning the “not guilty” verdicts on all charges, including a felony aggravated offense. He also was charged by county detectives with simple assault and disorderly conduct.
Simms testified that he got into the fight when the other inmate – reportedly a sex offender – made a derogatory, sexual remark about Simms’ young daughter. Simms said that he reacted when the guard intervened and pushed him.
Shean testified that he had received a bruised arm in the incident. It was brought out that Shean had ordered the two inmates to stop fighting and stepped in when they ignored his commands.
According to the trial testimony, Simms apologized to Shean when the prison’s emergency response team entered the housing unit and took Simms into custody.
Simms said that he had spent more than 200 days “in the hole” – a reference to being confined in a single cell 23 hours a day – as punishment at the prison.
Warden John Prebish said Monday that Simms was placed in the restricted housing unit because he was considered a security risk for having assaulted the corrections officer. The inmate was released eventually to general population but went back into the RHU after being involved in another fight, the warden said.
Kenneth Sottile, an assistant public defender, represented Simms, while Assistant District Attorney Gary Jubas prosecuted the case.
In February, Simms was convicted in another jury trial of possessing a baggie of heroin with the intent to sell it within 1,000 feet of a preschool in Johnstown’s Moxhan section.
He was sentenced in April to 27 to 84 months in state prison on the drug charge and drew a concurrent one-year probation on a guilty plea to tattooing a minor.