Former SCI Pittsburgh guard found guilty on 27 counts
Former corrections officer Harry F. Nicoletti Jr. walks out of the Allegheny County Courthouse today, after he was found guilty on 27 of 80 criminal counts.
Share with others:
Former corrections officer Harry F. Nicoletti Jr. was found guilty on 27 of 80 criminal counts against him today, ending the guilt phase of his trial on some of the most serious accusations of prisoner abuse the region has seen. He was not convicted on the most serious charges he faced.
Mr. Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis, was accused of abuses by 20 inmates, whose allegations ranged from name calling to sexual assault. Nearly all were housed in 2010 on the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh's century-old F Block.
The jury this morning returned guilty verdicts on 12 counts of official oppression, eight of simple assault, three of criminal solicitation, three of indecent exposure, and one of terroristic threats. He was found not guilty of all of the sexual assault charges. The jury was hung on a contraband charge.
Sentencing is set for March 27. Mr. Nicoletti will remain on bond until then.
The trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman consisted largely of prisoner testimony brought by Assistant District Attorney Jon Pittman, and cross examination challenging the witnesses' credibility by defense attorney Steve Colafella.
"This is no reflection on the hardworking corrections officers we have in the state system," said Mr. Pittman. The case's message, he said, was that "the laws of the commonwealth apply everywhere. ... Everyone, including inmates, has protection under the law."
Mr. Colafella said the not guilty findings on the most serious counts backs his contention at trial that the investigation of abuse reports from F Block "spun out of control.
"Obviously [jurors] felt that things were less than perfect at the prison," he said, but didn't buy some of the "horrific" allegations.
Jurors hugged and shook hands before they left the courthouse, and declined to talk about their experience.
The 12 jurors -- five men, seven women -- heard 11 days of testimony and deliberated from Friday through this morning.
In all, seven officers were charged with crimes allegedly committed on F Block. Three were later cleared, one was convicted on four counts, and two await trial. The allegations have also spurred 10 lawsuits -- seven by prisoners, two by fired or demoted officers including Mr. Nicoletti, and one by former SCI Pittsburgh managers.
First Published January 31, 2013 10:33 am