Former local health care facility employee sentenced for hate crimes against disabled patients

NEW BRIGHTON, Pa. — A former employee at a Beaver County health care facility was sentenced to federal prison for carrying out hate crimes against several severely disabled victims.

Tyler Smith, 34, from New Brighton, was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by three years of supervised released, the Department of Justice said.

Smith’s co-defendant, Zachary Dinell, was previously sentenced to 17 years in prison.

“Today’s sentencing holds Tyler Smith accountable for the abhorrent and degrading assaults he and Zachary Dinell carried out against more than a dozen victims—simply because they were disabled,” U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan said. “Hate crimes target and terrorize not just individuals but whole communities. Our hope is that today’s result brings some measure of closure to the victims’ families who have shouldered the crushing burden of Smith’s and Dinell’s conduct for so many years. This office and our partners at the FBI will continue to work every day to give voice to the voiceless and protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

Smith and Dinell were employees at an in-patient health care facility in New Brighton, where residents suffered from a range of severe physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities and required assistance with all activities of daily life.

Smith admitted during a plea hearing that from June 2016 to September 2017, he and Dinell conspired to commit hate crimes against 13 residents at the facility because of their actual or perceived disabilities.

The two co-defendants punched and kicked residents, rubbed Purell hand sanitizer in their eyes, sprayed mouthwash in their eyes and mouths and, in one instance, removed a resident’s compression stocking in a way that caused them pain. Several of the assaults were captured on cell phone video, the Department of Justice said.

Smith also admitted to jumping on top of a 13-year-old resident while the child was lying on his bed, which was another instance Dinell took a video of.

As part of the conspiracy, Smith also admitted that he and Dinell exchanged graphic text messages in which they expressed their animus toward the disabled residents, shared photographs and videos of residents, described their assaults and encouraged each other’s continued abuse of residents.

Smith also admitted that he and Dinell avoided detection by, among other things, exploiting their one-on-one access to residents of the facility and the fact that the victims were nonverbal and could not report the defendant’s alleged abuse. Due to their physical disabilities, the residents also were not able to defend themselves against the assaults.

“I hope today’s decision brings some comfort to the families impacted by this egregious crime,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Kevin Rojek. “Today’s sentencing shows there is no room for hatred, and crimes against our most vulnerable citizens will be met with the force of justice. The FBI and our partners stand committed to safeguarding the rights and dignity of every individual.”

Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Channel 11 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch WPXI NOW

Comments on this article