EBENSBURG - After about two hours of deliberation, jurors returned a mixed verdict Wednesday afternoon in the trial of the Johnstown man accused of assaulting three Cambria County Prison officers in May.
Seated calmly during day two of the trial at the Cambria County Courthouse, Erik Addison Britt, 27, stared straight ahead at President Judge Timothy Creany, occasionally glancing toward the jury as the verdict was read.
Jurors found Britt guilty of one charge each of aggravated assault and assault by a prisoner in connection with an incident where officials allege Britt struck Corrections Officer Jeffrey Nigborowicz and struggled with multiple officers before being subdued.
After the verdict was read, Britt began loudly talking over Creany, declaring repeatedly, "This is terrorism."
As Creany dismissed jurors to collect their belongings and their payment for serving during the trial, Britt again began speaking, telling the panel they were being "paid by a terrorist" and that he would "see Creany in court" in front of another judge.
Britt was escorted from the courtroom in handcuffs by sheriff's deputies.
The outburst was not his first. In a Jan. 5 jury selection, Britt had his mouth duct-taped shut by sheriff's deputies under orders from Creany before he was removed from court.
He was also removed from the courtroom Tuesday afternoon for speaking over the judge and shouting obscenities.
At the onset of the trial Tuesday, Nigborowicz told the court Britt disobeyed orders during a routine strip search upon returning to the jail in May from a hearing in magisterial district court. Nigborowicz said he was escorting Britt to disciplinary housing when Britt began to struggle and scream expletives. Britt's shoulder struck a blow to the officer's head, causing him to bleed from the ear, Nigborowicz said.
The jury returned not guilty verdicts for the remaining felony charges - two counts each of aggravated assault and assault by a prisoner - in connection with the two other prison officers named in the case, Lt. Adam Kaschalk and Officer John Briel.
"We respect the jury's verdict," Britt's court-appointed attorney, Arthur McQuillan, said. "It illustrates [the jury] differentiated between the different officers involved," adding that he plans to speak with Britt about an appeal.
Jurors also found Britt guilty of three counts each of simple assault involving the three officers named in the case, and one additional charge of disorderly conduct.
All three officers testified against Britt, but Briel's written report of the incident was only added as evidence on Tuesday. The report is the only written evidence that mentions Britt spitting blood and saliva at guards, the defense said.
McQuillan challenged the jury to question why the prosecution chose not to provide video documentation from prison security cameras to corroborate the officers' testimonies and reiterated that jurors focus on reasonable doubt in the case.
Although Britt did not testify, the defense called his mother, Carolyn Britt, to the stand. She described her son as an honors student in high school who had never been in trouble with the law and was well-liked in the community. Britt attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania on a scholarship and was six credits shy of graduation, Carolyn Britt said.
Britt, who was initially incarcerated in April on felony charges of stealing his parents' car, had not contacted his mother in the nine months since he was arrested, Carolyn Britt said.
"It makes me sad," she added.
Assistant District Attorney Gary A. Jubas described the verdict as a victory for county corrections officers.
"I thought the jury came back with the appropriate verdict, considering the evidence presented in court," Jubas said. "[Corrections officers] have a very difficult job, and the evidence shows what they have to put up with. The jury's verdict sends a message to anyone going to prison that if they don't follow prison policy, they'll buy themselves more jail time."
Britt is scheduled for sentencing at 9 a.m. Feb. 27 at the Cambria County Courthouse.