When Matthew Jaskula stands in front of a judge Thursday, the former cell block attendant may benefit from an unlikely ally – the man he assaulted while on duty last year.
Shaun P. Porter, the suspect who was shoved face first into a metal door while handcuffed, says Jaskula is "just a cog in a system."
Porter, who is suing the city over the May 2016 incident, says the real blame for what happened to him that night rests with the Buffalo Police Department.
"While I did sustain very serious injuries at his hands, I nonetheless ask the court for leniency," he said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo.
Porter's plea for leniency, unusual in a prosecution involving victims, came as Jaskula faces a recommended sentence of up to 21 months in prison.
Jaskula, in his plea deal, admitted pushing the handcuffed Porter into a door while he was in custody and then, after Porter fell to the floor bleeding, hit his head again, dragging him to an empty cell. He pleaded guilty to a felony charge of deprivation of constitutional rights under color of law.
Porter, in his letter to Vilardo, said the Christian in him requires forgiveness and that sending the father of three kids, including a newborn, to prison would wreak "havoc and hardship," on his family.
"Mr. Jaskula is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "I understand Mr. Jaskula's conduct was tacitly approved by the city and the Buffalo police."
In his civil suit, Porter is expected to argue that both Jaskula and the department were to blame for the incident.
Without mentioning Porter's letter, prosecutors suggested that Jaskula, despite his guilty plea earlier this year, is now trying to deflect responsibility for what happened in the cellblock that May night last year.
They say Jaskula has been quick to blame his conduct on the pressures of the job and inadequate training. They also note that his entire crime was caught on jailhouse cameras.
"As a result, what happened is really not subject to dispute," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Guerra III said in court papers.
Protected by a court order and still unseen by the public, the video shows Jaskula assaulting Porter, investigators say.
The FBI, which led the investigation into the incident, said it started when Jaskula ordered Porter, who had been arrested in connection with a domestic violence incident, to face a wall, and then grabbed him from behind, shoving him face-first into a door.
Jaskula’s actions, according to investigators, caused Porter to hit his face on the door and, while falling to the ground, strike his face on the edge of a shelf before hitting the floor face-first.
After the victim became limp and unresponsive, Jaskula grabbed him again and dragged him 10 to 15 feet down a hallway to an open cell, according to court papers.
The papers indicate Porter was bleeding profusely and, while being dragged into the room, hit his head on the door frame, causing more blood to spill on the floor.
Prosecutors say Jaskula then placed Porter in a restraint chair used for uncooperative prisoners and left him without medical treatment for his facial injuries for about an hour and 45 minutes.
Paul G. Dell, Jaskula's defense lawyer, says the video doesn't end there and, at one point, shows Jaskula going to Porter's aid.
"I never went to work as a senior cellblock attendant looking to injure anyone, never," Jaskula said in a letter to the judge.
To explain what happened, he also pointed to mandatory "80-hour" work weeks at the cellblock, as well as the inherent dangers of working in a jail. He noted that he had just finished a lengthy HIV prevention treatment – the result of a bite from another suspect – when he and Porter crossed paths.
Dell said the video also shows two Buffalo police officers standing in the background, doing nothing to help Porter. The officers, later identified as Joshua T. Craig and Anthony J. D’Agostino, were suspended without pay.
The Buffalo News sought release of the video, but at the time, State Supreme Court Justice Tracey A. Bannister said the video should be kept from the public until after Jaskula's criminal trial.