Pittsburgh, PA – Caught on video savagely beating a teenage football fan and falsifying arrest reports, a fired police sergeant has recently been accused by the district attorney of using more force than necessary at least 56 times. Establishing a pattern of violence and falsifying reports, Allegheny County prosecutors introduced the new evidence on Monday in preparation for the ex-cop’s upcoming state trial.
On November 28, 2015, a surveillance video captured off-duty police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich ordering 19-year-old Gabriel Despres to leave Heinz Field. In his arrest report, Matakovich falsely claimed that Despres adopted an “aggressive posture” and appeared ready to attack him.
But according to the video, Despres calmly stood with his arms down at his sides when Matakovich suddenly shoved the teen to the ground and began punching him in the head. Although Despres did not provoke the attack and did not appear to fight back, the off-duty cop repeatedly struck him while several other security guards watched.
Treated for a bloody nose, Despres eventually pleaded guilty to trespassing and public drunkenness. After watching the video of the incident, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay fired Matakovich and opened an investigation that led to his state trial.
Charged with simple assault and official oppression in state court for attacking Despres, Matakovich also faces federal counts of deprivation of civil rights and falsification of a record. Even though the state charges are only misdemeanors that carry no more than two years in prison, Matakovich could be sentenced up to 30 years for the federal charges.
In an attempt to establish the ex-cop’s history of violence, county prosecutors introduced a motion on Monday detailing Matakovich’s use of unnecessary force against 56 other people and another case in which he assaulted a security guard then arrested him on false charges.
On December 28, 2014, Matakovich had been assigned to work as a plainclothes officer at Heinz Field. After an altercation broke out, Matakovich responded to the scene and tried to break up the fight.
Due to the fact that Matakovich was not in uniform, security guard Dylan Burton failed to recognize the cop before tapping him on the shoulder and questioning him. When Matakovich ignored his questions, Burton grabbed his shoulder a moment before the plainclothes cop turned around and began repeatedly punching Burton in the face. Although the security guard had committed no crime, Matakovich arrested Burton and charged him with aggravated assault.
Instead of going to trial, Burton ended up pleading guilty to a summary count of harassment. By showcasing Matakovich’s actions against Burton, county prosecutors will also be able to present a pattern of violence stemming from at least 56 other incidents since 2011 in which Matakovich claimed that a person had resisted.
Out of those 56 reports, 20 cases involved strikes to the face and head, with 17 of those resulting in injuries including broken noses, broken jaws, and loss of consciousness.
“In both cases, the defendant charged aggravated assault on a police officer when neither Despres nor Burton had come anywhere close to committing such an offense,” the motion said. “Furthermore, in an attempt to support this felony charge and justify his excessive force, in each case the defendant concocted a version of events to fit his narrative. Finally, in an attempt to clear himself of potential accusations of wrongdoing and put the incidents to rest, the defendant offered Despres and Burton pleas to summary harassment.”
According to the prosecution and video footage, Matakovich brutalized innocent people and arrested them under false charges in order to cover up his own violent provocations. Instead of succumbing to the proliferation of Big Brother watching us, the public continually finds ways to use those electronic eyes against corrupt members of our government.
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