Prison Talk

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Inmate testifies he saw Woods Run guard assault prisoners more than 20 times

An inmate testified Thursday that he saw former state prison guard Harry Nicoletti assault other inmates on more than 20 occasions during the six months he was a block worker at the Woods Run prison. Patrick Hogan, 32, a convicted robber, said he didn‘t want to participate in Nicoletti‘s assaults but for the most part didn‘t object to the corrections officer abusing sex offenders either. Hogan said he went along with it because he didn‘t want to lose the single cell, cable television and extra food that comes from doing regular chores as a block worker. He said he also didn‘t want to become one of Nicoletti‘s targets. “I absolutely would not want to ever be on the bad side of someone who could do anything to me,” Hogan testified in the state‘s prosecution of Nicoletti. Prosecutors charged Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis, with 89 counts that include involuntary deviant sexual assault. In the first day of testimony in his trial, Department of Corrections investigator Gary Hiler testified that Nicoletti singled out sex offenders — particularly ones convicted of assaulting minors — and homosexuals for physical, mental and sexual abuse. Assistant District Attorney Jon Pittman called Hogan as a state‘s witness to confirm other inmates‘ testimony. Under cross-examination, Hogan said he would have refused to testify if Nicoletti were a fellow inmate instead of a guard, adding that he didn‘t seek out investigators to become a witness. In the past two years while the state investigated, Hogan said he had his parole revoked, spent 56 days in restricted housing — also known as solitary confinement or the “hole” — and generally had his life uprooted. “I don‘t want to sit on this stand,” he said. “I don‘t want to be here right now.” Hogan also testified that Nicoletti would target inmates by replacing their regular meals with “alternative protein” meals consisting of bean burger, bean paste and other items that Hogan contended were nearly inedible. “It was nasty,” he said. Nicoletti mixed cigarette ashes and spit with the food, Hogan said. Another inmate testified Thursday that Nicoletti put him in restricted housing for 21 days after he refused to physically assault another inmate because the other inmate was significantly larger than him. During his stay, Nicoletti also sexually assaulted him several times, the inmate said. The Tribune-Review does not name accusers in sexual-assault cases. Testimony in the trial is expected to last two to three weeks. Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or Read more: Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

Handcuff love' sends Georgia man to prison

RINGGOLD, Ga. — A north Georgia man who handcuffed himself to a female Taco Bell co-worker has been sentenced to serve four years in prison. The Rome News-Tribune reports that 25-year-old Jason Earl Dean of Dalton handcuffed himself to the 18-year-old woman in August 2011 in an attempt to convince her to go on a date with him. Lookout Mountain Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton says a Catoosa County Superior Court judge sentence Dean to four years in prison followed by six years on probation. Norton says Dean is also not allowed to have any contact with the victim or her family. She called for help, and several other employees ran outside and talked Dean into letting her go. “Based on what came out during the hearing, this was a very fair sentence,” Norton told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. “There was testimony put forth about a previous incident some years ago in Murray County.” As for an apology from Dean, Norton said, “I don’t think there ever was one.” Dean and the girl were part of the crew that reopened the Taco Bell off Old Alabama Highway near Interstate 75 in July nine weeks after a massive tornado damaged it and many other structures there in April 2011. Dean had been trying to go out with the woman for several weeks, and employees had changed her shift so she could avoid him, Ringgold Police Chief Dan Bilbrey said at the time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of a fired guard at the center of a sexual and physical abuse investigation at a Pittsburgh state prison and his attorney said the man is "pleased we're finally getting a chance to face his accusers." Harry Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis, faces the most — and most serious — charges of the four guards who are standing trial separately for the alleged abuse in the F Block, or intake area, at the century-old State Correctional Institution in Pittsburgh. Nicoletti has been fired from the prison where he allegedly sexually assaulted and physically abused more than 20 inmates, mostly those serving time for child molestation. But Nicoletti also allegedly targeted inmates he thought were gay, regardless of their crimes. Nicoletti has called the charges "made up" and his attorney, Steve Colafella, said the accusers are not those typically deemed credible. "Obviously, we're dealing with not only a number of convicted felons, we're dealing with a number of convicted child sex offenders," Colafella said during a break in Tuesday's jury selection. Nine jurors have been picked and opening statements are expected to begin Thursday. The jury must decide whether Nicoletti is guilty of 89 counts involving 21 inmates who have accused him of physical or sexual abuse — including institutional sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Perhaps the most heinous allegations involve a transsexual male inmate who developed female breasts due to hormone treatments. Nicoletti fondled that inmate before raping him, while shouting racial and sexual epithets, including calling him a "weird freaky monkey," the criminal complaint said. Nicoletti is also charged with intimidating other inmates into silence, ordering or coercing other guards to mistreat the prisoners — including contaminating their food and bedding with urine and other bodily fluids — and then working with his colleagues to cover up the alleged abuse. The investigation has spawned several lawsuits, including two filed by eight guards, including Nicoletti, who lost their jobs or were demoted for allegedly participating in the abuse or failing to report it. The guards contend the allegations were trumped up and coaxed out of inmates by investigators with the state Department of Corrections. Seven former inmates, including some who will testify against Nicoletti and the other guards in criminal court, are suing over their alleged mistreatment. And three former prison administrators who lost their jobs during the investigation have sued claiming they were fired for being whistleblowers about the abuse. A judge has tossed that lawsuit, but they're appealing to have it reinstated. The judge overseeing Nicoletti's case also presided over another guard's trial last month. Tory Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa, was convicted on four counts including felony witness intimidation against one inmate, but had 10 other charges based on allegations by three other inmates thrown out. His sentencing is scheduled for March 20. Two other guards are scheduled for trial later this year. Nicoletti was arrested in September 2011, five months after he and several guards were suspended without explanation during what would later be revealed to be a county grand jury probe. "We're anxious to start this trial, it's been almost two years now," Colafella said. "He's certainly anxious to move forward and have his day in court." Read more: