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Four Women Testify Against Former Lackawanna County Prison Guard

LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) Lackawanna County has already spent 260-thousand dollars on legal fees related to the ongoing investigation at the prison in Scranton

That number -- released by the county controller Wednesday morning -- came as one of the seven corrections officers arrested in the probe faced a judge.
    Eyewitness News reporter Eric Deabill has the latest

John Shnipes is the former corrections officer who faces the most serious charges in the prison probe.
     On Wednesday four women took the stand here -- saying he sexually abused them while they were under his supervision.

 John Shnipes seen in the video in the blue shirt -- walked into the Lackawanna County courthouse Wednesday to face serious sexual assault allegations.
    Four women claim he had sexual contact with them while he worked at the county prison.
    Allegations that Shnipes denies.

 
"You saw the witnesses in there today. They were absolutely horrible and again, they're motivated by a profit motive. They have lawsuits against many of these people" said Robert Trichilo, Defense Attorney,.

    One of the women says Shnipes came into her cell looking for sex.
    Another claims she had three run-in's with him in a recreation ball closet.
    The two others said they had sexual contact with Shnipes in a recreation office.
    One of the women testifying.

    "I was violated. I was crying that I allowed it....adding... The judge gave me a sentence and that wasn't part of the sentence."

    Prosecutors believe there's a pervasive culture of sexual abuse at the jail.

    One accuser testified, "He's the one in charge. I'm not...I did what Ihad to do to survive."

    Shnipes attorney tried unsuccessfully to get the case thrown out -- claiming the statue of limitations is well exceeded in some instances.

 
"We're going to raise the statue of limitations at every stage. I believe that there's a legitimate argument to the statue of limitations" Said Attorney Trichilo

 

    At the same exact time, Shnipes was facing his accusers -- county leaders were being questioned on how much the prison probe is costing taxpayers.
    To date -- the county controller says his office has paid 260-thousand dollars in legal fees since a large scale raid by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office last year.
    At least 40-thousand dollars more in bills is also pending.

 "It's a lot of money. This is an issue. This is why I'm always talking about privatizing the prison" said County Commissioner Lauren Cummings, 

 Right before Wednesday's hearing began -- prosecutors dropped two charges against Shnipes -- saying they didn't fit the allegations.
    A judge ruled he will stand trial on all 14 other criminal counts he's charged with.


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