Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Prison Guards Sue over Abuse Allegations, Dismissals

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Prison Guards Sue over Abuse Allegations, Dismissals

Article excerpt

Corrections officers at the center of inmate abuse allegations at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh staked their claims in a lawsuit filed Monday, saying they were unfairly dismissed from their jobs based on a thin investigation.

Harry Nicoletti, Tory Kelly, Bruce Lowther, Brian Olinger and John Michaels claim in the lawsuit that their due process rights were violated by six current or former Department of Corrections officials. They demand payment for the lost earnings, anxiety and illnesses they have suffered since they were escorted from the prison last year.

Mr. Olinger, who had faced criminal charges, later dismissed, that were based on inmate claims, also sued for malicious prosecution.

Department officials regularly fend off lawsuits by inmates claiming they have been abused by guards, said attorney Lawrence Fisher, who is representing the five former corrections officers. But in this case, he said, the department has accepted "incongruent and incredible allegations of convicted felons" against people with "unblemished records as corrections officers."

A department spokeswoman said she could not comment on litigation.

The filing adds to the thicket of court cases arising out of a probe in 2010 and 2011 by the department's Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence, which concluded that inmates -- especially those who were convicted of sex crimes -- were systematically and sometimes brutally hazed on SCI Pittsburgh's F Block.

Corrections investigators are likely to testify for the prosecution at the upcoming trials stemming from inmate allegations of Mr. Nicoletti, 60, of Coraopolis, set for Jan. 8; Mr. Kelly, 41, of Aliquippa, set for Dec. 17; and Mr. Lowther, 35, of West Newton, who could go to trial Jan. 28.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the department are defending its employees -- although not Mr. Nicoletti -- against six inmates' claims that they were abused.

Separately, those attorneys also are before the 3rd Circuit U. …

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