An investigation by the Beaver Countian has revealed that the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office issued a deceptive press release which led to a misleading article being published by the Beaver County Times today. The press release was issued from the Sheriff’s Office to the Times, which attempted to convince the public that their safety was being jeopardized due to budget cuts made to the Sheriff’s Office by the new Republican majority Board of Commissioners.
The Beaver County Times published an article today on page A-8 of their paper titled, “Jail inmate escapes custody at Pittsburgh hospital, found in Beaver Falls,” which details the purported “escape from custody” of a jail inmate who was being treated at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.
“Officers arrested an inmate of the Beaver County Jail who escaped custody while being treated at a Pittsburgh hospital,” the article by the Times began. “According to a statement made by the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office, Tyesha Jones, 24, of Beaver Falls was taken at about 1 a.m. July 22 from the jail to Heritage Valley Beaver hospital for a ‘medical issue.’ Soon after Jones’ arrival, hospital staff made arrangements to transfer her to UMPC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh, police said.”
The article goes on to quote directly from the press release by the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office, “in what was a ‘result of manpower shortages and overtime pay restrictions within the sheriff’s office,’ deputies did not accompany Jones as she was transported to Pittsburgh for treatment, according to the sheriff’s department.”
The Times reported based on the press release that UPMC Presbyterian notified the Sheriff’s Office at about 8 p.m. that Jones had left the hospital, and that Deputies and officers from the Beaver Falls Police Department discovered Jones in Morado Dwellings just two hours later in Beaver Falls where she was arrested without incident.
After a review in the Clerk of Court’s Office of documents filed in Tyesha Jones’ pending criminal cases, the Beaver Countian discovered that the woman was not in fact legally an inmate of the county while she was at the hospital and had not in fact simply “escaped custody” as reported by the Beaver County Times based on the press release.
Among the court documents reviewed by the Beaver Countian included an Order of Court issued by Beaver County Common Pleas Judge Kim Tesla granting a $1 bond to Tyesha Jones on the date in question. With the issuance of the bond, Jones was no longer legally “in custody” which is why she was not — and should not have been — guarded by Sheriff’s Deputies while at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.
Sources tell the Beaver Countian that the bond was granted to Tyesha Jones after transport to the hospital. Several courthouse sources told the Beaver Countian that it is not unheard of for inmates who are experiencing medical problems to be granted such a bond (provided they are not deemed a danger to the public) as it effectively “frees” the inmate so that their medical treatments or off-site supervision are no longer the county’s financial responsibility.
Tyesha Jones had been booked into the jail on a probation violation and is awaiting a preliminary hearing on charges of retail theft.
A typewritten portion of Judge Tesla’s order granting Jones’ release on bond stated, “This bond is to be revoked upon discharge from the hospital.” The order contained additional language which was handwritten by the judge below that, stating, “Defendant is directed to report back to Beaver County Jail upon discharge from hospital.”
County Officials likened the alleged incident involving Tyesha Jones as similar to when other inmates have absconded after being let out of jail on work release. Officials stressed that the situation was in no way related to the Sheriff’s disputed budget.
Court dockets do not show a current defense attorney of record for Jones; the Beaver Countian was unable to determine what representation she may have had when the $1 bond was issued or who explained its terms and conditions to her.
Sources familiar with the incident tell the Beaver Countian that Jones took a taxi from the hospital in Pittsburgh to Beaver Falls and had allegedly failed to pay her fare; the Sheriff’s Office “discovered” Jones’ whereabouts after the driver called Beaver Falls Police about the money he said he was owed.
After the Beaver Countian contacted the Beaver County Commissioners about the matter, the Board began conducting their own investigation which culminated in a closed-door meeting between Commissioners Dan Camp, Sandie Egley, and Tony Amadio with County Solicitor Andrea Cantelmi, Chief of Staff Joe Weidner, EMS Director Wes Hill, Sheriff Tony Guy and others. The Board separately spoke to Warden Bill Schouppe about the matter as well.
Online Court dockets show that as the meeting between County Officials was taking place today, Sheriff’s Deputy David Yasick had Tyesha Jones arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Tim Finn on a felony charge of Escape. Given the description of events provided by the Sheriff’s Office in its press release to the Beaver County Times, it is not immediately clear how the Sheriff’s Office — which by law has no investigative powers — had jurisdictional authority to file criminal charges against the woman. Escape offenses are routinely investigated and charged by the County Detectives Bureau.
County Commissioners declined public comment about the meeting, but did confirm the Beaver Countian’s findings; all three Commissioners expressed extreme frustration to the Beaver Countian about the way Sheriff Tony Guy has been administering the Sheriff’s Office since his election. A representative for the Sheriff’s Office the Beaver Countian spoke to about the matter declined to provide public comment for this report.
Following the Beaver County Times’ report, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review published a similar story, quoting Beaver County Deputy Sheriff’s Sgt. Rich Yonlisky that deputies did not guard her hospital room at Presby hospital “because of overtime restraints and a lack of manpower.”
The press release from the Sheriff’s Office to the Beaver County Times stems from alleged events which occurred the day after County Commissioners announced they would not be increasing the budget of the Sheriff’s Office.
The Board of Commissioners had also sent Sheriff Tony Guy a letter last week notifying him they were prepared to take legal action against him if he did not provide records detailing the activities of his Deputies by the end of last week. The Sheriff failed to comply and members of the Board have since been consulting with the County Solicitor in preparation of filing a legal motion seeking to have Sheriff Guy found in Contempt of Court.
Prior to that deadline, Commissioner Sandie Egley gave an interview to the Beaver Countian as part of a separate investigation being conducted by this publication, “We have not received the activity logs and a few days ago we asked our Solicitor to send a letter to Sheriff Guy as a follow up to our second request that had not been responded to, so we ultimately put a deadline. If the deadline is not met, we will follow through with legal action against the Sheriff. This is the end. He’s done.”