TOWANDA, Pa. (WETM) – Court documents released Wednesday highlight disturbing allegations of sexual abuse by Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman over several years.
The case against Salsman was announced by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was in Bradford County on Wednesday afternoon to outline the case.
“The details of these assaults are incredibly disturbing,” said Shapiro. “Five women, and this is important, independent of one another experienced the same pattern of advances of coercion and of assault at the hands of Mr. Salsman when he was a defense attorney.”
Shapiro said on Wednesday that Salsman remains the Bradford County District Attorney and that any change would be up to the “people of Bradford County” and a disciplinary board.
According to the criminal complaint, Salsman represented numerous women in criminal cases and child custody matters, some of whom “struggled with addictions, had a history of being sexually abused, or suffered from other vulnerabilities which Salsman exploited.”
The criminal complaint alleges that many of the assaults happened in Salsman’s office where he had raped the women on his office desk and “then directed them to his private bathroom to ‘clean up’ using paper towels or cleaning wipes.”
The following outlines each victim’s testimony as stated in the criminal complaint. The details are disturbing and may not be suitable for all readers.
Victim 1: “L.J.”
In 2017, Salsman represented a woman on charges of harassment and possession of drug paraphernalia. Salsman did not bill “L.J” but ordered her to provide nude photographs and videos of her and her girlfriend.
According to the complaint, Salsman groped the victim in his office multiple times. During one incident, he allegedly ordered her to disrobe and raped her.
Both the victim and her girlfriend testified to the grand jury.
Victim 2: “H.H.”
In December 2017 Salsman was court-appointed to represent “H.H” in a child custody case. While representing her Salsman allegedly made “suggestive comments and would touch her under the table during court proceedings.”
H.H. repeatedly declined requests for videos and to have sex with Salsman, but after Salsman said he was not being “adequately compensated for his representation” H.H. sent nude pictures to him.
Salsman also sent H.H. a video of a naked woman in a bathtub without the woman’s consent. The woman in the video says Salsman had been comforting her after a death in the family and that he began asking for pictures and videos.
H.H. testified “that Salsman told her that he masturbated dozens of times a day” and that he sent her pictures of her home without her knowledge.
In April 2019 H.H. was changing her representation and went to Salsman’s office to acquire her file. During that meeting Salsman allegedly “forcibly grabbed her breasts while in his private office.”
H.H. also met with Salsman after he was elected District Attorney and wore a wire device during conversations where he allegedly told her not to cooperate with the grand jury investigation.
Victim 3: “A.M.”
Salsman began representing “A.M.” when she was 19 years old in a child custody case. She contacted him in May 2018 regarding a DUI arrest, during which she said she didn’t have money to pay for his representation.
A.M. alleges that after that conversation Salsman began “coming onto” her and that Salsman said “his wife wasn’t giving him what he needed at home.”
A.M. then told the grand jury that Salsman raped her in his private office on his desk and directed her to clean up using paper towels in his bathroom. He also allegedly touched her breasts and buttocks without her consent, made her perform oral sex, and raped her multiple times.
A.M. testified that he pushed her to get information from other women during the investigation and that he raped her once after he became district attorney.
Victim 4: “L.W.”
“L.W.” testified to the grand jury that Salsman represented her boyfriend, as well as another man who had previously sexually assaulted her. Salsman also hired L.W. and her boyfriend to do repair or remodeling work at his private office and loaned her money.
In October 2018 L.W. visited Salsman’s private office to drop off her last repayment of the loan. During the visit Salsman took the money and “directed L.W. to undress,” saying that he “wanted to see what they (her breasts) looked like because he said they were big through my shirt.”
L.W. complied and was raped by Salsman in his office, after which he told her to clean up with the paper towels in his bathroom. Salsman allegedly told L.W. “not to breathe a word to anyone, or he would ruin her life.”
Victim 5: “N.A.”
“N.A.” was represented by Salsman in a child custody case during which he required little in the way of fees.
In December 2018 Salsman “began touching N.A.’s breasts in his office and touching her inappropriately during court proceedings.”
Salsman then began asking for nude pictures of N.A. and informed her that “she could compensate him for his legal work by having sex with him. As he put it, ‘I could slam your p***y and you wouldn’t have to pay.'”
The criminal complaint says that “N.A. began a consensual sex-for-services relationship with Salsman.” When their “relationship soured, however, Salsman became more aggressive and threatening.”
Salsman told her that he told her no one could know what had happened between them.
Members of Salsman’s staff testified to the grand jury and confirmed that he had “one-on-one” meetings with female clients and that Salsman “went to great lengths to keep his interactions with his clients a secret from the staff.”
Salsman would also ask his secretaries to play music or turn on an air conditioner unit or noise making machine to “mask any sounds or noise occurring in his office.”
Staff also testified that “female clients were seen leaving Salsman’s office in tears or in distress.”
One former staffer told the grand jury that her and Salsman had a consensual ongoing sexual relationship.
Another staffer testified that, in his capacity as District Attorney, Salsman “directed her to report back to him anything that occurred within the grand jury” despite being ordered by the judge not to disclose her testimony.
Salsman’s case was referred to the 45th statewide investigating grand jury by former Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett.
The entire criminal complaint can be read below:
Salsman is now facing the following charges:
- Three counts of sexual assault, a second degree felony
- Six counts of witness intimidation, a second degree felony
- One count of promoting prostitution, a third degree felony
- One count of promoting prostitution, a second degree misdemeanor
- Two counts of obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, a second degree misdemeanor
- Five counts of indecent assault, a second degree misdemeanor
- Six counts of intimidation of witnesses or victims, a second degree misdemeanor
The criminal complaint goes on to say while “many other women were placed in the same position, those events occurred outside the statue of limitations and therefore cannot serve as the basis of criminal charges.”
The statute of limitations for sexual assault in Pennsylvania is 12 years, with exceptions for children victims and other cases.
Salsman told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he is “innocent” while being led to a Pennsylvania State Trooper vehicle in Towanda. Salsman posted $500,000 bail with 10 percent surety and waived his preliminary hearing, according to WBRE.
Daryl Miller, Chairman of the Bradford County Commissioners, tells 18 News that Salsman remains the District Attorney barring any resignation.
If Salsman is found guilty of a criminal offense there would be grounds for removal through a judicial review board. The current Assistant District Attorney is Brian Gallagher, who has held the position since 2016, according to his LinkedIn page.
Miller says he has not had any contact with Salsman and that the Commissioner’s office has “no say or control” over removing Salsman or calling for his resignation.
Miller believes that if Salsman were to resign by mid-February there could be a special election to replace him.
“The criminal justice system is in control of the whole process right now and we just have to wait and see how that all plays out.”
Bradford County’s court-appointed child advocate released a letter on Thursday calling for Salsman’s resignation.
18 News will have continuing coverage of this story on 18 News at 6.