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Inmate testifies he saw Woods Run guard assault prisoners more than 20 times

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 5:34 p.m.

An inmate testified Thursday that he saw former state prison guard Harry Nicoletti assault other inmates on more than 20 occasions during the six months he was a block worker at the Woods Run prison.

Patrick Hogan, 32, a convicted robber, said he didn't want to participate in Nicoletti's assaults but for the most part didn't object to the corrections officer abusing sex offenders either.

Hogan said he went along with it because he didn't want to lose the single cell, cable television and extra food that comes from doing regular chores as a block worker. He said he also didn't want to become one of Nicoletti's targets.

“I absolutely would not want to ever be on the bad side of someone who could do anything to me,” Hogan testified in the state's prosecution of Nicoletti.

Prosecutors charged Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis, with 89 counts that include involuntary deviant sexual assault.

In the first day of testimony in his trial, Department of Corrections investigator Gary Hiler testified that Nicoletti singled out sex offenders — particularly ones convicted of assaulting minors — and homosexuals for physical, mental and sexual abuse. Assistant District Attorney Jon Pittman called Hogan as a state's witness to confirm other inmates' testimony.

Under cross-examination, Hogan said he would have refused to testify if Nicoletti were a fellow inmate instead of a guard, adding that he didn't seek out investigators to become a witness.

In the past two years while the state investigated, Hogan said he had his parole revoked, spent 56 days in restricted housing — also known as solitary confinement or the “hole” — and generally had his life uprooted.

“I don't want to sit on this stand,” he said. “I don't want to be here right now.”

Hogan also testified that Nicoletti would target inmates by replacing their regular meals with “alternative protein” meals consisting of bean burger, bean paste and other items that Hogan contended were nearly inedible.

“It was nasty,” he said.

Nicoletti mixed cigarette ashes and spit with the food, Hogan said.

Another inmate testified Thursday that Nicoletti put him in restricted housing for 21 days after he refused to physically assault another inmate because the other inmate was significantly larger than him. During his stay, Nicoletti also sexually assaulted him several times, the inmate said.

The Tribune-Review does not name accusers in sexual-assault cases.

Testimony in the trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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