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Former Pittsburgh-area health care worker sentenced to 10 years on federal hate crime charges

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A former Beaver County health care worker was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he was convicted on federal hate crime charges for allegedly abusing patients with disabilities. 

Thirty-four-year-old Tyler Smith of New Brighton, who previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was sentenced to prison followed by three years of supervised release, the Department of Justice announced on Friday.

Zachary Dinell and Tyler Smith, who both worked at McGuire Memorial, were indicted on hate crime charges in 2022. 

Officials said the two were responsible for providing day-to-day care to individuals with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. Prosecutors said Smith admitted that he and Dinnell abused 13 residents because of their disabilities between June 2016 and September 2017. 

Authorities said Smith and Dinnell punched and kicked residents and put irritants like hand sanitizer and mouthwash in their eyes.

According to prosecutors, Dinell said he and Smith texted about how much they disliked the residents with disabilities, shared photos and videos of them and encouraged each other to continue the abuse. 

Smith admitted that he and Dinell weren't caught because they could exploit their one-on-one access to residents and since the victims were non-verbal and physically disabled, they couldn't report the abuse or defend themselves, officials said. 

"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 in a news release. 

"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."   

Dinnell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, ten counts of violating the federal hate crimes law and one count of concealing material facts in a health care matter. He was sentenced to 14 to 17 years in prison. 

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