Former prison guard describes hostile atmosphere for sex criminals
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A former State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh prison guard testified against an ex-colleague at trial today, saying that officers created a hostile atmosphere for sex crime convicts, but that he did not personally witness physical abuse.
Former corrections officer Curtis Hoffman worked SCI Pittsburgh's F Block, where, according to inmate testimony, sex criminals were singled out for hazing and sometimes physical abuse. Tory Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa, is on trial on 14 counts ranging from simple assault to official oppression.
Another former officer, Harry N. Nicoletti of Coraopolis, faces trial next month on 89 counts.
Mr. Hoffman testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution that also covered his testimony, twice, before a grand jury.
He said that Mr. Nicoletti would perform most of the new inmate orientations on F Block.
Mr. Nicoletti would "say, 'You look like an [epithet] child molester. You'd better tell me or I'm going to go on the computer and find out,'" Mr. Hoffman testified.
Mr. Hoffman said that Mr. Kelly was not assigned to F Block, but would frequently come there.
Mr. Kelly "bragged about his escapades," Mr. Hoffman said. "He always talked about fighting. ... The only complaints I heard with reference to him were inmate workers or staff who said they were tired of him bragging about beating up inmates."
Under cross examination by defense attorney David Cercone, Mr. Hoffman said he never saw Mr. Kelly strike an inmate, nor did he recall seeing the defendant interact with any of the four prisoners whose allegations form the basis of the trial.
He portrayed supervision of F Block as lax.
"It's commonplace for supervisors to approach the block, sign the log book and leave," he said. But within the prison there was broad knowledge of the singling out of sex crime convicts on F Block, he said.
The prosecution then rested and the defense will begin, and possibly complete, its case this afternoon. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David Cashman is handling the nonjury trial.
Some time shortly after the completion of this trial, Mr. Kelly faces a separate trial on five counts related to allegations that he tried to intimidate Mr. Hoffman.
First Published December 20, 2012 11:51 am