Lackawanna County Prison Officer Found Not Guilty

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Former correctional officer George McHale,  accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate at the county prison, has been found not guilty on all charges by a jury in Lackawanna County.

McHale is one of seven correctional officers accused of sexually assaulting female inmates at the Lackawanna County Prison.

McHale, the first to stand trial, was accused of forcing an inmate to perform a sex act on him through a cell door while the inmate was in solitary confinement back in 2009.

McHale has been suspended from his job in corrections for more than a year. He was charged with institutional sexual assault and indecent assault.

George McHale was overjoyed as he and his family left court in Scranton after hearing "not guilty" on all three sexual assault charges he faced.

During the three-day trial, McHale testified against his accuser, a former female inmate at the Lackawanna County Prison.

"I just told the truth, I just don't know her, I don't know her at all, it never happened, period," McHale said.

It took the jury of four women and eight men about two hours to acquit McHale.

"You never know what to think when a verdict comes quickly, but we were hoping for a quick verdict," said defense attorney Joe Toczydlowski. "I think that the evidence was of such poor quality there was absolutely not a bit of credible evidence that this attorney general's office brought in this case."

Last February, the state attorney general's office charged seven Lackawanna County corrections officers with various sexual assault charges, the result of a grand jury investigation.

McHale is the first of the seven to stand trial.

"They took employees out of the jail in handcuffs but never stopped to consider the credibility of these individuals who were making the allegations and it came out in court, without question," Toczydlowski added.

McHale's defense focused on discrediting the accuser. Toczydlowski questioned her criminal history of robbery and retail theft and told jurors she was motivated to come forward because she might make money off a pending civil lawsuit.

McHale told us he's not sure whether he will try to return to his job at the Lackawanna County Prison.

"I'll take it step by step, day by day, alright? I just want to go home and enjoy my life. I've been through turmoil in the last year and a half," McHale said.

McHale took the stand in his defense on Wednesday afternoon and said he never assaulted the woman who accuses him. In fact, he says he never knew her when she was an inmate at the Lackawanna County Prison because he rarely worked in the Bravo Unit where female inmates are housed.

McHale denied the allegation and said so during testimony under oath.

In closing arguments, McHale's defense attorney attacked the woman's criminal history telling jurors that she cannot be believed.

When McHale and the other officers were arrested last year, Newswatch 16 heard from a woman who claims abuse by McHale. She said McHale threatened her during one of her first nights behind bars in the fall of 2016.

"He came back later that night when everyone else was in bed. He locked all the other dorms, the other pods down, I guess is what you call them, called me out and told me to come to the bathroom. He made me do oral sex and he raped me repeatedly."

She says she had a feeling she wasn't alone after she went to other prison employees to report the abuse.

"I reported it to the medical staff and they told me, 'welcome to jail, you're going to enjoy this.'"

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