Pittsburgh PA Sept 30 2011 The day after a corrections officer at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh was charged with physically and sexually abusing more than 20 inmates, the Allegheny County District Attorney said he has enough evidence to file criminal charges against 11 additional employees.
Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said the majority of those who could be charged are corrections officers, though there are staff members as well.
Harry Nicoletti, a corrections officer at the Pittsburgh low-to-medium security prison, was arrested and charged Tuesday with 92 counts, including institutional sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, criminal solicitation, terroristic threats, official oppression and simple assault.
According to the criminal complaint, Mr. Nicoletti, 59, of Coraopolis specifically targeted inmates who were homosexual or transgendered, as well as those who were convicted sex offenders.
“We don’t like what these inmates did,” Mr. Zappala said. “We don’t want them in our community, but you can’t do this.”
Mr. Nicoletti, along with seven other corrections officers, has been suspended for several months.
It is unclear which other employees are under scrutiny by the DA’s office, but Mr. Zappala made clear that they are not the leadership team that was removed from SCI Pittsburgh in May.
Among the charges under consideration are conspiracy, official oppression and assault, Mr. Zappala said.
“It is a crime under Pennsylvania law for a corrections officer to see assaults or be aware of assaults and not stop them or report them,” he said. “You, obviously, can’t have these things going on in your institution. Besides being illegal, they destabilize the facility.”
Stephen Colafella, the attorney representing Mr. Nicoletti, said his client’s family posted his $75,000 bond, but he will not be released until he has an evaluation with the jail’s behavior clinic.
“He vehemently denies what he’s been accused of,” Mr. Colafella said. “Because he’s been suspended, he’s really not been in the loop. He’s really not had the opportunity to rebut these charges.”
Mr. Nicoletti has previously said the inmates’ allegations against him were false.
But Mr. Zappala said he does not believe this is simply a case of inmates conspiring against an officer they don’t like.
“It’s not just an inmate case. There’s a lot more evidence. There’s staff, records, videotapes.”
Sue Bensinger, a spokeswoman with the Department of Corrections, said she could not comment on the ongoing investigation.