Ex-prison guard in Pittsburgh details the cost of his testimony
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A former corrections officer who cooperated with prosecutors against a former colleague testified Monday that his life was ruined by the experience.
"I lost my house, my job -- a 14-year career gone," said Curtis James Hoffman, who worked with Harry F. Nicoletti at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh's F Block until 2011. He said he is in the witness protection program.
Mr. Hoffman is the only former guard publicly cooperating in the prosecution of Mr. Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis. Mr. Nicoletti faces 89 counts related to prisoner abuse, ranging from official oppression to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
Mr. Hoffman said he saw Mr. Nicoletti loudly telling inmates each others' crimes. Mr. Hoffman said Mr. Nicoletti would announce: "???'There's a child molester right here. He's a kiddie toucher.' Right in front of the inmates."
On cross-examination, Mr. Hoffman stopped short of saying he saw some of the abuses alleged. "I never saw him put an inmate's head in a toilet, no," he said.
Mr. Hoffman confirmed to defense attorney Steve Colafella that he filed a workers' compensation claim for stress, which he litigated, and got a settlement of roughly three years' salary, which required his resignation.
He said Mr. Nicoletti had a group of inmate "thugs" including Richard J. Cavallero II, who testified earlier Monday.
Cavallero, 40, of the McKean County town of Smethport, has been convicted for thefts, burglaries and drug charges.
He testified at Mr. Nicoletti's preliminary hearing a year ago that, at the officer's behest, he beat up dozens of prisoners and contaminated hundreds of inmate food trays with body fluids. He said little Monday.
"Are you not going to recall most of the questions I ask you?" Assistant District Attorney Jon Pittman asked.
"It worked for Bill Clinton," Cavallero said.
He later said he was "threatened and coerced" into testifying against Mr. Nicoletti, though he did not detail that, other than to say he was visited by agents at his workplace and subpoenaed.
The trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman is now in its second week.
First Published January 15, 2013 12:00 am