Pa. prison inmate severely beaten while incarcerated receives $975,000 settlement from county

By Jon Campisi | Dec 16, 2011

A former Lackawanna County, Pa. prison inmate who has since been convicted of possessing child pornography and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison will be awarded a near-million-dollar settlement from the county stemming from his beating by a fellow county inmate while both were incarcerated.

Nicholas Pinto, who had filed suit against Lackawanna County in federal court in Harrisburg back in February, will receive a settlement of $975,000, according to documents filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit, filed by Pinto’s mother, Pamela J. Pinto, claimed that county prison officials didn’t do enough to protect Pinto from other inmates housed at the county jail.

Specifically, guards and officials allowed a beating of her son by another inmate to take place.

In early August 2010, the suit claimed, Pinto was “senselessly beaten by Michael Simonson, an administrative custody inmate with a known history of violent and unpredictable behavior.”

“As Simonson pounded Nicholas Pinto’s skull until Pinto’s lifeless body lay flaccid on the floor, none of the correctional officers … ever intervened to stop the beating or to protect Mr. Pinto,” the suit claimed.

As a result of the beating, Pinto ended up suffering traumatic brain injury that left him in a temporary coma.

The lawsuit claimed that the “brutal and gruesome beating of Nicholas Pinto was the direct and proximate result of the reckless and deliberate indifference” on the part of the defendants.

On Nov. 15, Stroudsburg, Pa. attorney James A. Swetz, who had been appointed mediator in the case, filed court documents announcing that a settlement between the parties had been reached.

U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo subsequently issued an order dismissing the case without prejudice.

On Dec. 15, Philadelphia attorneys Shanin Specter and Dominic Guerrini, who represented Pinto’s estate, filed court papers accepting the settlement agreement.

The court papers show that the settlement came after mere hours of negotiations. The settlement includes $230,000 that will be placed in escrow to pay Pinto’s medical and rehabilitative expenses.

Most of the settlement money will come from county insurance coverage.

At the time of his beating, Pinto had been placed in protective custody because of prior beatings and victimization by other county inmates, according to court papers.

At the time of his assault by Simonson, Pinto was being returned to his housing unit after participating in outdoor recreational activities.

Court documents stated that Pinto was not supposed to come into contact with inmates being housed in administrative or disciplinary custody, as was Simonson.

“This did not happen on the day of Mr. Pinto’s assault, as the correction officers failed to make certain all of the Administrative Custody inmates had been locked down inside their cells,” court papers stated.

Pinto’s beating left him comatose and in need of numerous hospitalizations. He has since made a full recovery, although he is now a federal prison inmate serving a sentence for child porn possession.

The Times Leader newspaper in Northeast Pennsylvania reported that at the time of the attack, Simonson was being held at the Lackawanna County jail awaiting trial in Luzerne County, Pa. for the 2009 beating death of another man.

Simonson eventually pleaded guilty in that death, the paper reported, and was subsequently given a life prison term.

While he was awaiting trial, however, Simonson had said he decided to beat Pinto because of the “rage” he possessed for those who possess child pornography, according to the newspaper account.

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