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Former SCI Pittsburgh prison guard to serve five years of probation in abuse of sex offenders

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 2:18 p.m.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Harry Nicoletti Jr. is led out of the Dormont Municipal Center Tuesday September 27, 2011.

The Woods Run prison guard who masterminded the abuse of child sex offenders serving time will spend five years on probation, an Allegheny County judge ordered on Thursday.

Harry Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis, a former guard at State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, will spend six months on house arrest.

Prosecutors said Nicoletti led a group of guards who targeted inmates convicted of sex crimes involving minors.

“You were painted as an ogre; you were painted as a sex fiend; you were painted as a villain who liked to torture and seek out sex offenders,” Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman said before imposing Nicoletti's sentence. “I'm sparing you from the danger you imposed on the individuals you were in charge of. I hope you understand that.”

“It certainly has never been my mission to hurt or embarrass anyone,” Nicoletti told the judge before sentencing. “While I do respect the jury's verdict, I still struggle with it daily.”

He declined to comment as he walked out of the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown, with his wife.

A jury in January found him guilty of 27 counts, including one felony of solicitation and misdemeanor charges of official oppression, simple assault, solicitation, indecent exposure and making terroristic threats.

The jury acquitted him of 52 charges that he sexually assaulted the inmates. It could not reach a verdict on one count that Nicoletti brought illegal contraband into the prison.

Defense attorney Steve Colafella said Cashman's sentence sends a message to other guards.

“This case represents a policy statement that that type of behavior is not tolerated by the Department of Corrections,” Colafella said.

A jury in December found former Woods Run guard Tory D. Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa guilty of threatening and assaulting an inmate. Kelly is scheduled to be sentenced April 2.

Former guard Bruce Lowther, 35, of West Newton is awaiting trial set for April 15. Prosecutors dropped or dismissed charges against four others.

The charges against Nicoletti and the other guards have spurred several federal civil lawsuits.

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

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