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Former correctional officer found not guilty

March 14, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A jury found a former Maryland corrections officer not guilty of assaulting several prison guards while he was housed at the Franklin County Prison last summer.

After two-and-a-half days of testimony and attorney arguments, a jury deliberated for more than an hour before finding David Ardinger, 37, not guilty on all four counts of aggravated assault. He could have faced up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney George Matangos said Ardinger, of 17611 Stone Valley Drive, Hagerstown, struck one officer in self defense in the June 24 incident that occurred when five correctional officers entered Ardinger's cell to remove three mattresses.

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"David Ardinger defended himself after being struck first," Matangos said.

Ardinger placed a mattress in front of his cell door, obscuring the officer's view into the cell and refused to remove it, according to testimony.

In his closing arguments Thursday morning, Matangos repeatedly accused the corrections officers of lying under oath to protect themselves and implicate Ardinger, who suffered a broken orbital bone and other injuries when one officer reportedly punched him in the face to end the scuffle.

He also questioned why there were no photographs of Ardinger's injuries taken, even though his client had requested them.

"This is not an indictment of Franklin County Prison. It is an indictment of misconduct and lies under oath," Matangos said.

Five corrections officers testified Ardinger kneed one of them in the groin, kicked another and then punched others during the incident.

While Matangos tried to place the blame on the corrections officers, Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom said they were not the ones on trial.

"This case is not about five officers assaulting Mr. Ardinger. This case is about Mr. Ardinger assaulting five officers," she said. "Mr. Ardinger is on trial."

She said the case boiled down to the fact Ardinger was not following prison rules, forcing the guards to go in his cell and retrieve the mattresses, at which time Ardinger began to fight.

"If he was so fearful of these officers coming into his cell, why didn't he just comply?" she asked. "He was provoking, plain and simple."

Krom said corrections officers are permitted to use force to enforce the rules of the prison or to protect themselves.

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. He remains in the jail.

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

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