Prosecution rests in Nicoletti trial over abuses in SCI Pittsburgh's F Block

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The prosecution rested today in the jury trial of Harry F. Nicoletti Jr., who was fired from his job as a corrections officer at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh after inmates accused him of a wide variety of abuses in 2009 and 2010.

The defense of Mr. Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis, begins Tuesday before Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman.

Twenty former inmates of SCI Pittsburgh's F Block testified that they were abused by Mr. Nicoletti, their accusations ranging from name-calling to rape.

Other inmates and one former corrections officer backed parts of the accusers' testimony.

Nine charges were nullified when prosecutors declined to bring one of the accusers, Rubin Swift, to the stand. That leaves 80 criminal charges against Mr. Nicoletti.

The prosecution has been controversial because it is based almost entirely on the word of convicts.

Seven officers were charged with crimes. So far charges have been dropped or dismissed against three, one has been convicted on four counts and two others await trial.

A sergeant was fired but later reinstated through arbitration, and another was demoted.

Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel yesterday told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he stands by those decisions.

"I'm somebody who believes we have a great Department of Corrections," he said. "We're that good because we have great employees. It starts with basic respect for human beings -- the ones who are incarcerated. As a department, we will not have a system in which people come out worse because they were not treated with respect. If somebody comes to a system and the system is not just, what message does it send?"

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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