A lawsuit settlement made public Tuesday brings to $386,000 the total paid by the state in relation to lawsuits stemming from the hazing of sex-crime inmates on the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh’s F Block.
Robert Veith, 52, of the Hill District, is due $30,000 in settlement of his lawsuit claiming that he endured eight months of solitary confinement after he spoke out against tampering with another inmate’s food, according to his attorney, Steve Barth. Documents filed in U.S. District Court indicate that the case is voluntarily dismissed.
Veith, a repeat burglar, thief and robber, “spoke up against someone tampering with someone’s food who may or may not have been a pedophile,” Mr. Barth said. “He just said, ‘Hey, man, leave him alone.’ ”
That evening, according to Veith’s lawsuit, corrections officers Harry F. Nicoletti and Kevin Friess searched his cell and “assaulted him and he was slammed to the ground.” According to the lawsuit, Veith was then assigned to restrictive housing, in which the inmate leaves the cell for just an hour a day.
Five months into that punishment, then-Superintendent Melvin Lockett exonerated Veith of wrongdoing, according to the lawsuit. But Mr. Lockett was fired before Veith could be returned to the general population, and as a result the inmate lingered in solitary for three extra months, according to the lawsuit.
On F Block in late 2010, several corrections officers targeted sex offenders for harassment. Nicoletti, 62, of Coraopolis, and Tory Kelly, 42, of Aliquippa, are on probation following conviction for official oppression and other crimes against inmates. Charges against Mr. Friess and several other officers were dropped or dismissed.
Including Veith’s case, the state has settled lawsuits by former F Block inmates for a total of $286,000. The state also settled, for $50,000 each, lawsuits filed by Mr. Friess and another former F Block corrections officer who said they were accused and fired without due process. Both officers left the prison system.
The state “recognized there were issues on F Block,” Mr. Barth said. “They at least appear to be trying to take steps to remedy those issues in dealing with the grievance process, in dealing with misconducts, in improving the way that [corrections officers] deal with inmates.”
A Department of Corrections spokeswoman did not comment.
Veith is now imprisoned in the State Correctional Institution Forest.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord. First Published August 12, 2014 12:00 AM