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Pa. man attacks COs during cell search

Detectives suspect the man, who kicked and spit at guards, was “grooming” a nurse by exchanging letters with her

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Jerome W. Thornton, 33, is accused of attacking guards at the Westmoreland County Prison during a search of his cell.

Facebook/Westmoreland County Prison

By Renatta Signorini

GREENSBURG, Pa. — A Unity man is accused by police of attacking guards at the Westmoreland County Prison during a search of his cell for communication with a nurse at the Hempfield facility.

Jerome W. Thornton, 33, was awaiting arraignment on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated harassment by prisoner and simple assault.

Westmoreland County detectives said the attack was reported Sept. 21. Authorities found letters Thornton and a female nurse had been writing to each other in which it appeared Thornton was “grooming” the nurse, according to court papers.

She has not been charged.

When guards searched Thornton’s cell on E Unit for any additional letters, he spit in two guards’ faces and kicked one of them in the leg, according to court papers. Thornton was taken to another cell and continued to fight with guards, kicking one in the chest.

One of the guards was taken to Independence Health Westmoreland Hospital for treatment of a leg injury, according to court papers. Thornton did not have an attorney listed in online court records.

In August and September, he was sentenced to four to eight years in a state prison on drug charges filed by state police in a 2020 incident and 2022 accusations that he had a shank in his cell at the jail, according to online court records.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta by email at or via Twitter.


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