DA drops ‘vicious lies’ defense, pleads guilty in sex case
A Pennsylvania district attorney who had cast the case against him as a pack of “vicious lies” pleaded guilty Friday to pressuring clients for sex when he was a defense attorney and then coercing them to keep quiet about it.
Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman admitted guilt and resigned from office three months after claiming he had “committed no crimes” and hinting he was the victim of a political smear by the state’s top prosecutor.
Salsman, who took office a year ago, was charged Feb. 3 with sexually assaulting women who were his clients in criminal and child custody cases when he worked as a defense attorney. The accusers told a grand jury that he groped them, sought nude photos, and pressured or forced them into sexual acts, sometimes on his office desk.
He pleaded guilty to reduced charges of witness intimidation, promoting prostitution and obstruction of justice, according to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. The prostitution charge is a felony that carries a maximum of 11 years in prison. Salsman will be sentenced July 9.
After Salsman was first charged, he emailed a statement from his Bradford County government address that cast the accusations as “vicious lies” and pledged to “vigorously defending myself against these false allegations.” He added: “Anyone who knows me knows that the picture the Attorney General is painting is not Chad Salsman.”
Salsman, a Republican, had also accused Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, of turning his case into a media spectacle, complaining about being handcuffed and “paraded in front of television cameras.”
The attorney general’s office said Friday that “despite Mr. Salsman’s efforts to interfere in the investigation and his claims that the grand jury was politically motivated, today he is taking responsibility for his actions.”
Salsman “pressured clients into prostitution for legal services and used his power as a private attorney, and then as district attorney, to repeatedly harass, coerce, and intimidate victims,” the attorney’s general’s office said in a news release.
Salsman’s attorney did not immediately return email and phone messages seeking comment on the plea.
Before Friday, Salsman had vowed to continue serving as district attorney while his criminal case was pending, but had turned over trial and courtroom responsibilities to subordinates. The DA’s website still had Salsman’s photo and biography up as of Friday afternoon. The DA’s office said Brian Gallagher, an assistant district attorney, was serving as acting DA.