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SCI-Pittsburgh guard denies sex assault charges: 'It's humiliating'

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Harry Nicoletti characterized himself as a squeaky-clean officer at State Correctional Institution in Woods Run who couldn't recall a majority of the inmates who claim he solicited them for sex or assaulted them.

Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis took the witness stand in his defense on Wednesday, denying every accusation against him and leaving jurors to decide whether to believe the former guard or the 35 witnesses who have offered contradictory testimony during his trial.

“It's ridiculous,” he said of charges that in late 2010 he targeted inmates who had been convicted of sex crimes involving minors. “It's humiliating. It's absurd. The answer is no. Do you see this ring on my finger? I'm a father. I'm a husband. I'm somebody's son.”

Nicoletti is charged with 80 counts that include involuntary deviant sexual assault and official oppression. The trial is in its third week at the Allegheny County Courthouse.

Nicoletti spent nearly three hours on the stand talking about how he obeyed prison rules by leaving his prescription Xanax at home or storing his heart medication in a napkin instead of a prohibited glass jar. He also disputed the testimony of Curtis J. Hoffman, a former colleague, saying Hoffman embellished facts.

“We're supposed to be a brotherhood, but I'm ashamed to say there are some dirty officers out there,” he said.

“Do you hate pedophiles?” asked defense attorney Steve Colafella.

“I'm a father. I have a daughter. But I don't look at them any different than any other inmates,” he said.

When asked by Assistant District Attorney John Pittman why his version differed from other witnesses' recollections, Nicoletti responded: “It's my conclusion that inmates lie.”

Nicoletti said that since his arrest in September 2011, his life has been in shambles, and the trial has “destroyed” his wife. His daughter, he said, has been teased at school.

“It seems like every time I turn the TV on, I see my face,” he said.

Nicoletti's cross-examination will continue on Thursday.

Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman said he expects to hear closing arguments and charge the jury on Thursday afternoon.

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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