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Former state prison guard guilty of assaulting inmate in Pittsburgh

| Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 11:24 a.m.

An Allegheny County judge on Friday convicted a former state prison guard of physically assaulting and threatening an inmate in Pittsburgh.

Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman found Tory Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa guilty on four counts, including simple assault, intimidating a witness, terroristic threats and official oppression. The judge found Kelly not guilty on 10 counts. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 20.

The charges on which Cashman found Kelly guilty stemmed from a three-day encounter with Randy Jones, 24, of Verona, who was imprisoned in the Woods Run facility for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child in 2010.

A visibly upset Kelly declined comment afterward. He was overheard outside the courtroom telling his daughter, “I never even touched that guy.”

Kelly's lawyer David Cercone declined comment, citing pending charges against Kelly for allegedly trying to discourage another guard from talking to investigators.

Jones accused Kelly of taunting and beating him before he requested to be placed in the prison's restrictive housing unit, where inmates are on lockdown for 23 hours a day.

Gary Hiler, the lead investigator on the case for the Department of Corrections Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence, testified on Monday that Jones “was in some mental stress” and being treated at the prison infirmary in early January 2011 when investigators spoke to him.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, said cases in which prison guards are alleged to have abused inmates are difficult to prosecute because the victims are not sympathetic figures.

“That being said, Judge Cashman's felony conviction of this defendant sends a strong message that even inside of prisons, we are still a society of laws,” Manko said.

Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections, would only say “the conviction speaks for itself.”

Kelly's weeklong trial was the first of four to be held in response to a state grand jury investigation that centered on allegations guards targeted convicted child molesters while they were held in a temporary intake area of the prison.

Authorities accused Harry Nicoletti, 61, of Coraopolis of being the ringleader. Nicoletti is scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 8 on 89 counts, including charges that he sexually and physically abused prisoners. Nicoletti has said the accusations against him are false.

Former guards Bruce Lowther, 34, of West Newton is scheduled for trial on Jan. 28 and Jerome Lynch, 35, of the North Side is scheduled for trial on Feb. 5.

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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