Former police sergeant, Stephen Matakovich, has been convicted of violating a drunk teenager’s civil rights in an assault at a high school football game. Matakovich was sentenced to two years in prison for his heavy handed policing.
The sentence was imposed Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon and added that Matakovich’s actions undermined public trust in the men and women that are tasked to protect and serve the Pittsburgh community.
Investigators said that Matakovich shoved 19-year-old Gabriel Despres twice and then punched him at Heinz Field in November 2015. According to reports, Matakovich instigated the confrontation between him and Despres and then lied about it in his report. Federal prosecutors said a surveillance video of the incident didn’t support Matakovich, who is charged with deprivation of civil rights and falsification of a document.
Video of the incident at high school football championship game at Heinz Field in 2015 shows Despres with his hands at his sides and not advancing when he was pushed down and struck by Matakovich.
The 48-year-old veteran and his defense attorneys pleaded for a sentence of probation based off of his “exemplary” career as an officer but the judge wasn’t moved by the argument. The judge concluded that Matakovich deserved prison time and it was in order because the officer instigated the confrontation and then concocted a story to cover up what he’d done.
“There’s more to me than 11 seconds of potential misinterpretation,” said Matakovich, who also sought leniency so he could support his teenage daughters.
Matakovich was acquitted on the charge of falsifying documents but was found guilty of his assault on Depres. Bisson agreed with the prosecutors that an enhanced term was warranted because his account was “plainly contradicted” by video and witness statements.
Matakovich stands by his actions but did apologize if he misread the actions displayed by Despres which led to the altercation.
“Do (police officers) make mistakes? Absolutely we do,” he said. “Could I have made a mistake on the evening in question? I could have.”
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