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Trial of former officer carries into third day

March 13, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A former Maryland correctional officer on trial on charges he assaulted four guards while an inmate at the Franklin County Prison testified Wednesday that he barricaded himself in his cell and disobeyed orders in an attempt to get the attention of a supervising officer.

"When I was refused to see Sgt. (Karl) Crider, I put the mattresses up," defendant David Ardinger said, describing how he blocked the door to his cell last June 24, preventing prison officers from seeing inside.

Ardinger, 37, of 17611 Stone Valley Drive, Hagerstown, is charged with four counts of aggravated assault in the incident. He could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

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He said the situation was not a hazard because he would lower the mattress any time an officer wanted to talk to him.

Because Ardinger refused to permanently removed the mattress, corrections officers said they were forced to enter the cells and retrieve the mattresses.

Corrections officers testified Tuesday that Ardinger further tried to prevent the guards from entering his cell by grasping the bars on the door.

Ardinger said Wednesday he placed his hands there because he was trying to protect himself.

"I was trying to prevent them from coming in and hurting me," he said.

Ardinger said he suffered a bruised toe, cuts to his leg and a broken eye socket in the ensuing scuffle, that guards said started when Ardinger kneed one of them in the groin.

Ardinger said he has lingering problems from the eye injury, including problems focusing when he tries to read.

"I didn't want them in my cell. I didn't want anyone to get injured," he said.

The incident ended when one officer punched Ardinger, knocking him to the ground, according to testimony.

In addition to Ardinger, defense attorney George Matangos also called Warden John Wetzel and several other corrections officers to the stand Wednesday.

The Commonwealth and the defense finished presenting their cases, and Matangos and Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom are to begin closing arguments at 9 a.m. today. After that Judge Douglas Herman will give jurors instructions and they will begin deliberations.

Ardinger has been in the Franklin County Prison on $100,000 bail since February 2002 when he was jailed on charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault and indecent assault, court records show.

His trial on those charges has been indefinitely postponed while the Franklin County District Attorney's Office awaits an evidentiary ruling from the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

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