In September 2011, Harry F. Nicoletti, Jr., 60, a guard at SCI Pittsburgh, was arrested on 89 charges related to sexually abusing prisoners, including multiple counts of institutional sexual assault, involuntary sexual intercourse and official oppression. The criminal complaint accuses Nicoletti of fondling a transgender male prisoner and calling him a “weird freaky monkey” before sexually assaulting him, among other offenses.
Two civil rights lawsuits have been filed against Nicoletti and other prison officials, alleging that for over two years Nicoletti was the ringleader of a group of guards who sexually abused prisoners – especially those convicted of sex offenses against children or believed to be homosexual. Eight guards were suspended and four prison administrators were fired or allowed to resign following an investigation. All of the administrators were named as defendants in one of the lawsuits, filed by a prisoner under the pseudonym John Doe.
The prisoner stated in his complaint that he was approached by Nicoletti in January 2010 and given a choice of being anally raped, performing oral sex or touching Nicoletti’s genitals. If he refused, Nicoletti threatened him with physical abuse or false disciplinary charges. The second lawsuit, also filed by a John Doe plaintiff, makes similar claims. Nicoletti has denied the allegations and the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association filed grievances over the suspensions, claiming they were baseless and imposed without due process. An arbitrator agreed, and ordered the eight suspended guards reinstated with back pay in March 2012. Nicoletti was found guilty on 27 counts.