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No jail time for prison 'fight club' guards

Sean Philip Cotter
  • Both convicted guards were sentenced to two years' probation.
  • A third guard was acquitted following trial.

Neither of the York County Prison guards convicted for their roles in a prison "fight club," in which they bribed inmates to fight each other in a South Block supply closet in 2013, will spend time behind bars.

York County Prison

David Whitcomb Jr., 30, of Hellam Township,, and Daniel Graff, 40, of York, were each sentenced by York County Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn to two years of probation, York County District Attorney's Office spokesman Kyle King confirmed.

A jury convicted them Jan. 10 of official oppression, conspiracy to commit official oppression and harassment.

2 guilty, 1 acquitted in prison 'fight club' trial

Graff was described by a witness as the "ringleader" of the operation, which witnesses said they called the "retard olympics." He will have to complete 200 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine, King said. He said Whitcomb will have to complete 150 hours of community service and pay a $500 fine.

A third co-defendant, Mark Haynes, 28, formerly of Jacobus, was acquitted of the same charges in January a few hours before Graff and Whitcomb were convicted.

Graff's lawyer, Steve Rice, said that while his client disagrees with the jury's decision, he's going to do what the judge ordered.

"He respects the process," Rice said. He said they didn't contest the probation department's recommendation of two years of probation, though he wished the number of community service hours were lower, as Graff's job now pays less, so he's working six days a week.

Korey Leslie, the attorney who represented Whitcomb, declined comment when reached by phone on Tuesday.

During the trial, senior deputy prosecutor Kelley Nelson argued that the three guards committed official oppression, conspiracy to commit official oppression and harassment by bribing inmates — including one with mental-health issues — to wrestle each other, allow themselves to be "choked out" by Graff and Whitcomb, allow themselves to be punched or hit in the arms or legs, drink water laced with pepper spray and other "juvenile" antics.

She took jurors through a detailed timeline of the alleged "circus antics," which she said happened around May 2013, and played portions of prison surveillance video outside the closet to bolster her argument.

"That video shows exactly what was going on, whether the defense wants to admit it or not," she said. "These men made a mockery ... of our correctional system."

But defense attorneys argued during their closing arguments that the main witnesses in the case, four current or former prison inmates, are known liars who made up the claims.

Attorneys said the inmates had motive to lie, including not incurring the ire of the prison captains who asked them about the goings-on in South Block.

None of the three guards works for York County anymore, a county spokesman has said.

— Reach Sean Cotter