Pittsburgh, PA — A belligerent and violent cop was convicted in 2017 of violating the civil rights of a teenager by savagely beating him at a high school football game. The entire incident, which looks like a giant bullying a small child, was captured on video and led to the initial firing of officer Stephen Matakovich, 48, and the subsequent charges.
Matakovich "was an annoyed bully who beat the crap out of a drunk kid," Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Gilson told jurors after his conviction. "This was an officer abusing his power."
Now, nearly four years after this officer's abuse of power, the taxpayers will be shelling out $77,500 to Matakovich's victim, Gabriel Despres.
“The settlement, from a monetary perspective, is good. What’s better in this case was that Stephen Matakovich was held accountable, that the city of Pittsburgh was held accountable,” attorney Alec Wright said.
As TFTP reported at the time, in 2017, the officer received an unprecedented 27-month sentence and was also forced to pay restitution to his victim from his own pocket.
Matakovich’s defense attorneys had argued against imprisonment, saying he had led an “honorable and lawful life,” according to KDKA.
But the pre-sentence report detailed a pattern of questionable arrests involving Matakovich over several years, and states that he “never used the lowest amount of force available.”
The victim's mother took the stand during the hearing and told the court how she hoped Matakovich will be sent to prison.
“It’s hard watching your son being beaten like that. We teach our children to respect police officers then this happens and I think it’s just a blemish on the Pittsburgh police, on all police,” Sherry Despres said.
Matakovich originally faced two charges, the first being the violation of Gabriel Despres' civil rights and the second accusing him of falsifying the police report on the incident. Somehow he was acquitted on the second charge, convincing the jury that he did not lie about or exaggerate Despres' actions which caused the officer to push and hit him.
Matakovich said he had to beat the small teenager at that time because he felt threatened. After watching the video, this claim becomes utterly hysterical. However, somehow a jury bought it.
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Naturally, the violent officer's defense team painted him as the victim, claiming that Despres' posture and demeanor at that time were threatening to Matakovich, who was surrounded by five security guards and in spite of the teen being unarmed and inebriated.
According to WTAE, lead defense attorney Tina Miller, a former federal prosecutor, told the jury that dissecting the 29-second encounter in a one-week trial was unfair to Matakovich, who could be trusted for the "split-second" judgment he made.
"Nobody is going to say to a police officer, 'I'm going to assault you,'" Miller told the jury. "You're not going to advertise what you're going to do. Your actions are going to be subtle. It's not going to be like some poster or (TV commercial)."
She defended Matakovich as "one of those guys on that thin blue line between chaos and order" before asking the jury, "Do we really want to second-guess?"
The prosecution even responded in jest at the outright silly claims of the defense in trying to justify this crazed cop's violence.
"The only way (Matakovich) can convince you that what he did was reasonable is to convince you that you can't trust your own eyes," Gilson said.
As the video shows, 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.
In an attempt to establish the ex-cop’s history of violence, county prosecutors introduced a motion during the proceedings 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.
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.
According to the prosecution and video footage, Matakovich brutalized innocent people and arrested them on false charges in order to cover up his own violent provocations. Luckily, video evidence of this cop's rage finally put an end to his rash of belligerence.
Matakovich's sentence should be held as the standard for cops who abuse their authority and attack innocent people. If enough cops are sent to jail and forced to pay for their own crimes, rest assured police brutality would be far less common.