Former SCI Pittsburgh guard goes on trial on abuse charges

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A corrections investigator outlined the case today against Tory Kelly, a former officer at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh who is on trial and charged with abusing four inmates.

Mr. Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa, will return to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas tomorrow to watch some or all of his four accusers testify. He faces 19 counts including intimidation of witnesses, terroristic threats, simple assault, official oppression, conspiracy, retaliation against a witness and stalking related to encounters with inmates in December 2010 and January 2011, and one encounter with a colleague in August 2011.

The first and only witness on the trial's first day was Gary Hiler, an investigator with the Department of Corrections Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence. Mr. Hiler spearheaded the probe that resulted in charges against seven SCI Pittsburgh officers, three of whom have seen their charges dropped or dismissed.

Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Jon Pittman, Mr. Hiler said that he concluded early in his probe that corrections officers had targeted new inmates convicted of sex crimes against children, who were housed temporarily in SCI Pittsburgh's F Block awaiting transfer to other institutions.

He said he and staff conducted "several hundred" interviews of such inmates. The case against Mr. Kelly focuses on four of them who claimed that they were roughed up or intimated on F Block.

"Inmates were not offered anything for giving interviews or cooperating" with the probe, Mr. Hiler said before Judge David Cashman. It was an attempt to preempt one of the defense's central thrusts -- that the prisoners have something to gain by accusing the guards, and told investigators what they wanted to hear.

Mr. Hiler said on direct examination that he interviewed one prisoner, Randy Jones, after that inmate sent a letter to a prison captain complaining of abuse. But cross examination by defense attorney David Brian Cercone revealed that Jones was interviewed before he wrote a letter describing the alleged abuse.

Mr. Hiler confirmed that there is no videotape of any of the alleged incidents, nor any record of medical complaints by the inmates.

Mr. Kelly has opted for a non-jury trial. His attorney declined comment.

One of the four corrections officers still facing charges, Harry F. Nicoletti, is charged with sexually abusing inmates, while Mr. Kelly and two others are accused of beating, oppressing and intimidating them.

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


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