Jury Selection Underway In Prison Sex Abuse Case

February 4, 2019

Jury selection continued this afternoon in the trial of a former Lackawanna County prison guard accused of sexually abusing an inmate.

George T. McHale, 51, is charged with one count of institutional sexual assault and two counts of indecent assault. Prosecutors said he coerced a female inmate to masturbate him at the county prison in 2009.

The charges stem from a statewide grand jury investigation that also led to charges against six other former guards. McHale’s case is the first to go to trial. The Times Tribune does not identify victims of sexual assault.

A panel of 60 jurors answered a series of questions this morning and afternoon, including whether they know any of the parties involved or if they had seen any media accounts of the case. About 35 jurors acknowledged they had read or saw stories. Five of those potential jurors said they would not be able to judge the case fairly because of that.

Prosecutors and the defense are expected to begin selecting jurors when the panel returns from a lunch break at around 2:15 p.m. It’s not clear yet whether attorneys will present opening statements today.

Lackawanna County Judge Julia Munley is presiding over the trial, which will move to the federal courthouse in Scranton once the jury is selected. The federal court was specially designated to hold the trial. Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Elo is prosecuting the case. McHale is represented by Joseph Toczydlowski.

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