Six corrections officers at SCI-Pittsburgh were arraigned this afternoon on charges including official oppression, criminal conspiracy and witness intimidation. The charges come in the wake of explosive sex-abuse charges against Harry S. Nicoletti, a CO charged in September after a lengthy grand jury investigation by the District Attorney's office. As with Nicoletti's indictment, the allegations here focus heavily on claims that inmates -- especially those convicted of sexually abusing children -- were themselves targeted by COs for physical and psychological abuse.
The PA State Corrections Officers Association, which represents prison guards, has issued a statement about the charges: "As we have maintained, every citizen is entitled to his due process under the law. The legal system should be allowed to take its course."
A summary of allegations follows:
Brian Olinger. Olinger faces charges of official oppression. Page six of the linked affidavit outlines accusations by an inmate that Olinger "urinated and possibly defecated" in the inmate's bed while other COs watched -- and then, telling the inmate "I made your bed for you," made the inmate lie in it.
Bruce Lowther. Lowther's attorney, Mark Fiorilli, said Lowther was the most recent of the charged guards to be suspended from his job as a CO at SCI Pittsburgh. He was suspended without pay on Friday. He is charged with official oppression, simple assault and conspiracy. The affidavit outlines an accusation by an inmate who said Lowther and Nicoletti put the inmate's head in a toilet and forced the inmate to say that he was forced to do it because he is "a piece of shit." Fiorilli denied the charges: "We look forward to challenging these accusations," he said.
Jerome Lynch: Lynch is charged with official oppression, simple assault, conspiracy, intimidation of a witness, terroristic threats and criminal solicitation. The affidavit accuses Lynch of threatening a convicted child molester with "a lead enema." Lynch then allegedly smacked the inmate, threw him to the floor, and began choking the inmate with his arm against the inmate's throat, shouting, "I should just fucking kill you." His attorney, R. Hagen Starz, declined comment.
Kevin Friess: Friess is charged with official oppression, simple assault, criminal conspiracy and intimidation of a witness. Pages 12, 13, and 14 of the linked affidavit outline circumstances in which Friess allegedly participated in verbal abuse against inmates with Nicoletti. Page 14 outlines a circumstance in which Friess and two other COs were heard smacking an inmate. Inmates claim that Friess was a "lookout" officer while Nicoletti and Kelly abused inmates. Friess attorney Casey White denied the charges: "Consider the sources of these allegations," he said. "We're eager to defend [Friess] in court."
Sean Storey: Storey is charged with official oppression, simple assault and terroristic threats. On page seven, an inmate says he witnessed Storey take his shirt off, go into the cell of a "Caucasian male pedophile inmate" and come out "sweating with some blood on him." His attorney, Christopher Capozzi, denied the charges.
Tory Kelly: Kelly is charged with official oppression, simple assault, criminal conspiracy, conspiracy, terroristic threats, intimidation of a witness and stalking. In August, he was charged with intimidating a witness after the grand jury investigation was initially made public. Pages 16, 17 and 18 of the linked affidavit outline multiple instances where Kelly was accused of physically assaulting inmates.
Notably, two sergeants who City Paper believes were among those suspended earlier this year do not appear to be among those charged today.
Casey White, the attorney defending guard Kevin Friess, surmised that the men had become witnesses for the prosecution. Mike Manko, press secretary for the DA's office, would not comment. Instead, he forwarded DA Stephen A. Zappala's statement on today's arrests: "My office, and this community, cannot tolerate conduct like this from persons in an authority position in this type of institutional setting."
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