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Some Charges Dismissed Against Former Prison Guard

Some of the criminal charges against a former Lackawanna County prison guard were dismissed Friday but others will head to trial.
Some of the charges against a former Lackawanna County prison guard have been dismissed but others will go to trial.

Joseph Black was in court Friday to face accusations that he had sexual contact with several female inmates while working at the lock-up in Scranton.

Friday's preliminary hearing is actually the conclusion of one that started several weeks ago.

That hearing had to be put on hold when one accuser collapsed from a seizure in the courtroom.

The woman came back Friday morning but there was drama at first when she told the judge she needed a break and then ran out of the room.

The woman later returned and along with three other women told the judge that Joseph Black had sexual contact with them while he was a jail employee.

After all of the testimony was complete, the judge dismissed some charges in the case concerning a fifth alleged victim in the criminal complaint.

That fifth accuser never took the stand. Prosecutors decided against bringing her up from a federal prison down south but said the case will move forward.

"We believe in that case. We believe in our total case here and we're not going to drop that case, whether or not it is refiled or something else," Assistant District Attorney Bill Fisher said.

One-by-one, the four other women took the stand saying Black had sexual contact with them. Charges associated with all four of those women will move onto trial.

One woman said Black assaulted her in a prison stairwell.

Another testified she was rewarded with 60 sugar packets after having sexual contact with Black in a prison gym.

Black's attorney says all of the accusations are false, especially given that cameras are all over the prison.

"There's never a time that these things happened in any secluded area of the jail," defense attorney Joe D'Andrea said. "Some of the stories were absolutely proposterous in that they just couldn't have happened."

Prosecutors filed charges against Black after a two-year grand jury investigation. They say it was an abuse of power.

"The evidence is what it is, everyone heard it, about the course of conduct, the common plan, scheme and design," Fisher said.

Black's attorney believes there is only one scheme, that the accusers are trying to make money.

D'Andrea says some have filed civil lawsuits against both Lackawanna County and the Joseph Black.

"These are people that just want to continue using heroin and feeding their heroin addiction and they think they can do it through getting an award from a civil lawsuit. There's no denying that some of them know each other and they've talked to each other," D'Andrea said.

When initially charged in January, Joseph Black was facing a total of 22 criminal counts.

After Friday's hearing, between charges being withdrawn by prosecutors or dismissed by the judge, Black will head to trial on 14 counts.

According to the warden at the Lackawanna County prison, Joseph Black is no longer an employee.
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