PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A former Pittsburgh police sergeant is headed to court Wednesday for sentencing for a fight with fan outside Heinz Field two years ago.
After repeatedly viewing the surveillance tape of then-Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, the jury found him guilty of violating the subject’s civil rights by use of excessive force.
On Wednesday morning, in front of Judge Kathy Bissoon, the government will ask for one to two years in prison, and Elizabeth Pittinger, of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board, agrees.
“What he did at Heinz Field is unacceptable, is criminal, and as I’m sure as he would say, if the guy broke the law, he needs to go to jail. It appears he broke the law, he needs to go to jail,” said Pittinger.
Lisa Washington’s Report:
Matakovich’s defense attorneys have argued against imprisonment, saying he had led an “honorable and lawful life.”
But the pre-sentence report details a pattern of questionable arrests involving Matakovich over several years, and states that he “never used the lowest amount of force available.”
In 56 cases of arrests involving some resistance, 20 involved Matakovich using closed fist strikes to the head and face, and of those, 17 resulted in injuries to the subject such as a “broken nose, broken jaw, or being knocked unconscious.”
There were 34 complaints filed against him at the Office of Municipal Investigations. Eleven being complaints by citizens alleging use of excessive force. The substantiated claims involved allegations of excessive force, false arrest and failing to report the use of a Taser.
FOP Union President Robert Swartzwelder objected to this record being used against Matakovich, saying the officer should be judged by the incident alone and not be sent to prison.
He said in a statement: “This is a case where the individual was not injured. The individual did not testify, and where that individual originally pled guilty to the offense.”
Whether the judge decides on leniency or imprisonment for Matakovich, Pittinger believes the case marks the end of one era and the beginning of another where excessive force will not be tolerated.