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Case dismissed against caregiver charged in death of man with Down syndrome

Joseph Easton was charged with involuntary manslaughter after allegedly sitting on man

March 08, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Magisterial District Judge David Hawbaker Tuesday dismissed the case against a Chambersburg caregiver who had been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Sept. 9, 2010, death of a man with Down syndrome.

Joseph Easton, 39, was charged with the single criminal count after allegedly sitting on a 37-year-old man at a care home operated by Person Directed Supports Inc., or PDS, in Guilford Township, Pa.

Franklin County (Pa.) Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner said Timothy Bradford Smith died of traumatic asphyxiation.

Hawbaker dismissed the charge after a preliminary hearing in Franklin County Central Court.

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Eric Augustine, who was prosecuting the case, said the move caught him by surprise and he continues to believe involuntary manslaughter was an appropriate charge.

"Whenever crimes are committed or take place, you evaluate the facts (in line with) the Pennsylvania Crimes Code," Augustine said.

District Attorney Matt Fogal said he intends to immediately refile the charge. In doing so, he will ask President Judge Douglas Herman to assign a new magisterial district judge.

An affidavit of probable cause states Easton and Smith struggled before Easton allegedly flipped Smith face down on the floor, straddled his waist and held his arms above his head.

The incident occurred after Smith defecated and urinated in his pants at lunchtime, the affidavit states.

Involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

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