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Prosecutors drop charges against former prison guard accused of abuse

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 12:14 p.m.

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday dropped all seven charges against a former prison guard accused of harassing and abusing inmates.

Jerome Lynch, 36, of the North Side was scheduled to stand trial on charges of simple assault, official oppression, solicitation and conspiracy. Prosecutors dropped the charges because the two accusers were not credible, said Lynch's attorney Jim Wymard.

β€œ(Assistant District Attorney) Jon Pittman, to his credit, looked upon this and didn't feel he had enough evidence that would merit going forward, and that's what a fair and good prosecutor should do,” Wymard said. β€œIt's about justice and not convictions or winning.”

Pittman couldn't be reached for comment. Mike Manko, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, said his office felt it would not be possible to sustain its burden of proof against Lynch based on a victim's reluctance to testify and his testimony at former prison guard Tory Kelly's trial.

The state fired Lynch from the prison in Woods Run in April 2011 and authorities charged him in November 2011. He filed a federal lawsuit last month claiming the state Department of Corrections violated his civil rights.

He was among seven guards accused of harassing and abusing inmates who were in prison for sex crimes against children.

A jury last week convicted former guard Harry Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis on 27 of 80 counts that he abused inmates. The jury cleared him of more serious sex charges. In December, a jury found Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa guilty of threatening and assaulting an inmate. Two other guards are awaiting trial. Charges against the others were dropped or dismissed.

The charges spurred personnel changes at the prison, with the state removing Superintendent Melvin Lockett and two deputy superintendents.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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