The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 4, 2013

Inmates brawl Friday morning at Northumberland County Courthouse

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — A shackled state prisoner accused of spitting at a SCI Coal Township corrections officer is in deeper trouble after he broke free from a Northumberland County deputy Friday morning and attacked another inmate while screaming racial slurs inside a holding cell at the Sunbury courthouse.

Deputies said that there was no reason to believe violence was impending and security was complicated by the number of prisoners being held Friday — at one point there were 18 people in detention at the courthouse. The maximum capacity for prisoners at the courthouse is 24.

Chief Deputy Randy Coe said he was escorting two inmates, including Matthew W. Katona, 22, of East Stroudsburg, from one holding cell to another at about 11:30 a.m. when Katona ran into the cell and began hitting inmate Leon C. Hastings, 21, of Sunbury.

Katona is white and Hastings is black. Both men were at the courthouse for pretrial hearings.

Hastings told deputies he’d never met Katona before the attack.

Lacking any notice about bad relations between any of the inmates and the high number being held in a small area while awaiting hearings didn’t help the situation, Coe said.