Two with hefty prison abuse charges against Nicoletti testify

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Two former inmates of the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh whose accounts are the basis of 16 of the most serious criminal charges against former prison officer Harry F. Nicoletti Jr. testified Tuesday at his trial.

Mr. Nicoletti's defense attorney portrayed the men as conspirators who shared notes and are seeking money.

One of the inmates, a 36-year-old transgender man, said that Mr. Nicoletti three times came into his cells on SCI Pittsburgh's F Block and raped him. "I pretty much lay there and weeped," he said. "I didn't report anything. I just wanted to forget it, suppress it, and not think about it anymore."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault.

The inmate said the memories rushed back after he was approached by Department of Corrections investigators, who scoured the prison system interviewing former F Block inmates.

He later filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court airing many grievances, including the alleged rapes. After that attorneys approached him and took up the case.

"You, in fact, have leveled sexual abuse allegations against correctional officers before," said Steve Colafella, the attorney for Mr. Nicoletti.

The inmate admitted that he had accused two officers of sexually abusing him previously, resulting in their arrests and the filing of civil court papers.

Charges against those officers were dropped, as was the inmate's civil case.

Throughout that inmate's testimony, Mr. Nicoletti shook his head, dropped a pen, covered his face in a tissue and whispered frequently to his attorney.

The other former F Block inmate to testify Tuesday said that Mr. Nicoletti subjected him to forcible oral sex four times. Mr. Colafella grilled him on a prison grievance he filed demanding $500,000 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.

"Is that what you want?" Mr. Colafella asked. "It's about me trying to recover from the psychological and emotional damage," the man said.

Mr. Colafella said that the two inmates who testified Tuesday had conversations about their allegations while they were both at SCI Somerset.

Today will be the seventh of the trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman. Mr. Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis is the central figure in a series of prosecutions for alleged abuse of inmates -- mostly those considered pedophiles or homosexuals -- on F Block in 2010.

None of the other corrections officers was accused of sexual abuses. Three had charges dropped, one was convicted on four criminal counts and two await trial.

neigh_city

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542.


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