Former prison guards face charges

Two accused of taping fellow Blair guard to chair in incident

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A pair of Blair County prison guards face criminal charges for hazing a third guard in April by allegedly taping him to a chair and possibly lighting him on fire.

Joshua B. Luther, 28, of Hollidaysburg, and David A. Urish, 34, of Gallitzin, are charged with felony counts of risking catastrophe for the alleged April 1 incident, online court documents show.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Hollidaysburg Borough police, a corrections officer reported that he had volunteered to work a double shift April 1, when he found that screws were removed from his chair and toothpaste was smeared on door handles.

The officer then approached Urish about the pranks, and Urish admitted that he’d removed the screws from the chair, according to police.

About 1 p.m., the officer who had been pranked was called to a meeting with Luther, who had been serving as shift commander, police said.

When the officer arrived, he found that Urish and a third guard also were in the area, according to the complaint.

As of Monday afternoon, the third guard had not been charged, and Hollidaysburg Borough police Sgt. Mark Lingafelt said he was unsure whether any additional charges would be filed in the case.

The pranked corrections officer sat in a “swivel chair,” and Luther and Urish wrapped his arms and legs in packing tape, police said.

The officer admitted “he did not tell them to stop or try and leave,” police said in the complaint.

Once the corrections officer was secured in the chair, Luther allegedly displayed a lighter and a can of aerosol spray.

The officer told police Luther sprayed the aerosol on the floor before lighting it on fire.

He also told police that the aerosol was sprayed on his back.

According to the complaint, the corrections officer initially told police that he believed Urish and Luther also lit him on fire because he “felt heat on his back right shoulder.”

However, he later admitted “he was not sure if they did light him on fire or just joked about it,” police said.

Urish and Luther also are accused of wrapping toilet paper around the other officer’s head.

In the complaint, police noted that the pranked corrections officer was “unable to complete his duties” during the alleged incident.

On April 1, the prison’s population was recorded at 293 inmates, police said.

A message seeking information from prison officials Monday afternoon was not immediately returned. Luther and Urish resigned from the prison staff after an investigation into the incident started.

According to the criminal complaint, an internal investigation was conducted at the prison and was concluded April 18.

Both Luther and Urish face felony charges of risking catastrophe, as well as lesser charges of unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and disorderly conduct, online court documents show.

Luther faces an additional misdemeanor charge of official oppression.

Online court documents show that Luther was arraigned Wednesday before Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner.

Urish was arraigned Monday.

Both are scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 25.

And both are free from prison on $25,000 unsecured bail.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.