WASHINGTON COUNTY (KDKA) — For the past year and a half, a terminally-ill Washington County man has sat in prison awaiting trial.
Dwayne Bruce’s attorney said his client has only weeks to live and should be let out so he can die with dignity.READ MORE: Costco Limits Toilet Paper Purchases Again
In January 2020, police arrested Bruce for allegedly taking potshots at Verizon workers on a cell tower in Hanover Township. His attorney disputes the charges, but Bruce was unable to post the $300,000 bail and has spent the past year and a half awaiting trial in jail.
“We’re innocent until proven guilty,” said attorney Michael DeRiso.
DeRiso said Bruce is close to death. After recently complaining of severe abdominal pains, Bruce was transferred from the Washington County Jail to Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh, where court papers say he’s been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.
“When I spoke to the doctor, he has between two weeks and two months to live,” said DeRiso.
Last week, DeRiso petitioned Judge Valarie Costanzo to have Bruce released into hospice, but the Washington County District Attorney’s Office opposed the motion. Bruce has a prior conviction for aggravated assault in 2002, and in a phone interview, First Assistant District Attorney Jason Walsh called him a general threat to the community.READ MORE: Squirrel Hill Grocery Store Hit With Consumer Alert
“We’re sympathetic to his condition, but we have to consider the safety of the community, and we’re just not going to release him with no plan and put the community at risk,” Walsh said.
“The DA’s office has taken the position that they’re comfortable with letting this man die alone in prison, pre-trial,” said DeRiso. “It’s inhumane. He’s sentenced to a death sentence without being convicted of a crime.”
At the hearing, Judge Costanzo denied the motion for a medical furlough but ordered Bruce be transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands, which is a medical prison and infirmary. However, DeRiso said Bruce was transferred to SCI Somerset instead.
“Which is a maximum security state prison without being convicted of a crime. His family has little or no contact with him and are not able to see him. He’s going to die,” DeRiso said.
Family members, who declined to appear on camera, said in phone calls they hear Bruce crying in agony, and he has been given only Tylenol for the pain. Longtime friend Gina Pittinaro said given his current condition, he poses no threat to anyone.
“He’s not going to go anywhere,” Pittinaro said. “Set a decent bail so the guy can get his hospice and see his family before he dies, for God’s sakes. That’s really not asking for much. I mean he’s dying.”MORE NEWS: Haunted Hills Hayride Reopens Friday Night With New Security Measures
On Tuesday, DeRiso filed another emergency petition to have Bruce released on nominal bond so his family could put him in hospice. Again the DA’s office opposed, and again Judge Constanzo denied the request.