Man jumps fellow prisoner in racial dustup at county courthouse
SUNBURY — A racially motivated disturbance involving two inmates housed in crowded detaining cells at Northumberland County Courthouse was broken up quickly and resulted in no injuries late Friday morning. But it did prompt President Judge Robert B. Sacavage to call for extra security for the remainder of the busy court day.
There were 125 pre-trial conferences scheduled at the courthouse Friday, which led to 18 inmates at one point being housed in three small detaining cells adjacent to the sheriff’s department during the morning hours. The congested conditions caused by the busy court schedule may have helped instigate the disturbance, which broke out at about 11:40 a.m.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Randy Coe said he was escorting Matthew Katona, 22, a state prisoner being housed at the county jail, and another male inmate from one cell to another when Katona “dove” onto Leon Hastings, 20, of Sunbury, and began fighting with him while yelling racial slurs at the prisoner, who is black. Katona, who is white, then started yelling racial slurs at some of the white inmates being housed in the cell before being restrained by Coe and Deputy Sheriff Daniel Zettlemoyer.
Coe, who called for assistance when the disturbance broke out, said Sgt. Dwayne Pidcoe grabbed Hastings and was able to separate him from Katona. Pidcoe said he threatened to use a Taser gun on Katona if he didn’t desist, but the inmate calmed down and was handcuffed by Pidcoe and Cpl. Robert Wolfe and transported back to the county jail.