Inmate from Altoona accused of rape to stand trial

EBENSBURG – An Altoona man faces trial in Cambria County after allegedly raping his cellmate in Cambria County Prison in April.

Magisterial District Judge Fred Creany held all charges against Russell Lee Harold III, 26, 1025 Second Ave., for court after a Tuesday afternoon hearing, including multiple counts of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charges.

One count of each was added Tuesday by Assistant District Attorney Tamara Bernstein, after requesting to withdraw two aggravated indecent assault charges.

Harold’s alleged victim spoke during the hearing, describing how the two became friends and eventually asked to be housed together so they could exchange fitness tips.

“He liked some of my workouts and I liked some of his workouts, so we thought we could complement each other,” the victim said.

He said Harold occasionally made jokes about “getting” him, but he thought Harold was kidding.

The two were placed together in a cell April 11, and by the next morning the jokes become more frequent, the victim said.

He said the first attack happened after 1 p.m., when prisoners were locked in their cells so juvenile inmates could use a common area.

The victim said he was in between sets of pushups and walking the length of the cell when Harold pushed him onto the bed and forced his right temple against the cell wall, as Harold removed his pants and raped him.

The attack lasted less than a minute, the victim said, during which time he had a flashback to when his father raped him at age 5. The victim said he reported the attack and was placed in foster care.

Afterward, Harold allegedly told the victim to not report the attack or the next time would be worse.

“I believed him,” the victim said.

A second attack occurred that afternoon, the victim said, when Harold tried to force him to perform oral sex.

Harold gave up after he resisted, the victim said, but again warned him to not report the incident.

The victim said he was able to borrow Harold’s pen and write a note to an officer that afternoon, under the guise of filling out of a form to get permission to call his mother.

He said he was was removed to the jail’s medical area before being taken to a hospital. The victim said nurses told him there was evidence of the first assault.

When cross-examined by Assistant Public Defender Kenneth Sottile, the victim said when the cell door was unlocked – to allow Harold to work – he wasn’t allowed to leave his cell. But, he admitted, inmates occasionally break the rules and leave their cells. But he

didn’t leave.

The victim also said he didn’t fight back against Harold or yell for help, nor did he try to talk to a guard earlier in the day before the second alleged attack.

He said he believed Harold’s threats and knew Harold would beat him up.

“I was scared,” he said. “I didn’t even think about it.”

Harold remains in jail. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Sept. 3.

A plea deal has not yet been discussed, Bernstein said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.