Ex-police sergeant gets 2 years in rights violation case
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A former police sergeant convicted of violating the civil rights of a drunken teenager in an assault at a high school football game has been sentenced to more than two years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon imposed the term Wednesday on Stephen Matakovich, saying his conduct “undermines public confidence” in the good men and women of the Pittsburgh police force.
Authorities said Matakovich twice pushed and then punched 19-year-old Gabriel Despres at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt Panthers, in November 2015.
Matakovich, 48, and his defense attorney asked for probation, saying he had an exemplary career as an officer.
“There’s more to me than 11 seconds of potential misinterpretation,” said Matakovich, who also sought leniency so he could support his teenage daughters.
The judge said prison time was called for because Matakovich instigated the confrontation and then concocted a story to cover up what he’d done. She sentenced him to 27 months.
Jurors acquitted Matakovich of falsifying reports, but the judge said she agreed with prosecutors that an enhanced term was warranted because his account was “plainly contradicted” by video and witness statements.
Matakovich said he believed his actions were correct but added he was sorry if he misread the behavior of Despres.
“Do (police officers) make mistakes? Absolutely we do,” he said. “Could I have made a mistake on the evening in question? I could have.”