Prisoner from Altoona allegedly raped cellmate

EBENSBURG – An Altoona man housed in Cambria County Prison to complete a parole violation program has been charged in the rape of another inmate.

Russell Lee Harold III, 26, 1025 Second Ave., was charged Tuesday with multiple counts of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and aggravated assault for an April 12 attack on his cellmate.

According to Cambria County District Attorney’s Office detectives, the victim reported that he and Harold were placed together in a two-person cell in Housing District West on the evening of April 11.

Cambria County Prison Warden John Prebish Jr. said Harold was sent to the jail to serve six months under the Technical Parole Violator program, an initiative which allows state inmates to be housed in county jails and other non-state prison facilities to prepare them for release and reduce recidivism.

A technical parole violator is someone who violates the terms of their parole in ways other than committing a new crime.

The victim told police that on the morning of April 12, Harold began making comments saying he was going “to get” the victim and tried to persuade him into sex by offering commissary items.

After lunchtime, the victim said, he and Harold were shut into their cell together while juvenile inmates were using the housing district’s common area. According to a criminal complaint, the victim said that’s when Harold pushed him onto the bottom bunk and raped him, using a plastic glove as a condom.

The victim said Harold forced him to change his pants afterward to get rid of possible blood evidence and allegedly threatened that the next time would be worse if the victim told anyone.

Harold allegedly tried late that same night to force the victim to perform oral sex, according to police reports.

The victim alerted a corrections officer to the assault through a note. Prison officials removed the victim to the jail’s infirmary before transporting him to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Hospital in Johnstown for an examination and sexual assault kit.

A corrections officer reported to detectives that the next day, April 13, he overheard other inmates yelling that Harold had raped another man. Harold allegedly yelled back that he did but had flushed the glove to get rid of his DNA.

Harold then allegedly admitted the same when talking to the corrections officer.

Prebish said both Harold and the victim remain at the jail, but Harold has been moved to a disciplinary housing unit.

He said because Harold is facing new charges, he’s been removed from the parole violation program but will remain in the county jail.

“We’ll hold him based on the fact that they’re not county charges. He’ll stay here through the case,” Prebish said.

After the case is completed, the state parole board will look at Harold’s case and decide what to do next, Prebish said.

Harold’s lengthy criminal history includes multiple convictions for possession with intent to deliver drugs, as well as guilty pleas for carrying a firearm without a license, using drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest, all out of Blair County.

A preliminary hearing in front of Magisterial District Judge Fred Creany is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday. Bond is set at $50,000.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.