SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A verdict has been handed down for Mark Johnson, a former Lackawanna County prison guard accused of sexually assaulting former female inmates.
A jury found Johnson not guilty, acquitting him of all charges. It took jurors about an hour to deliberate Thursday afternoon and come up with the unanimous decision.
Johnson was accused of sexually assaulting three former inmates inside the prison between 2003 and 2015. He and six other guards were charged and arrested in February 2018 after a grand jury investigation that brought a total of eight women forward.
One of those women who came forward with allegations against Johnson spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News Thursday afternoon. Nicole Palmitessa wants her voice heard, something she was not able to do during the trial. She was shocked about the jury’s verdict.
“They didn’t hear what I had to say and I feel like not only should the jury have heard, but the world should have heard because it was not right what that jail was doing,” Palmitessa said.
Tears rolled down Palmitessa’s face as her alleged sexual attacker Mark Johnson was acquitted. She was subpoenaed by the commonwealth to testify during the trial, but that didn’t happen.
“I wasn’t good enough for them to listen to my story and that disappoints me,” Palmitessa said.
Palmitessa speaks to Eyewitness News on what allegedly happened behind bars between 2011 and 2017.
“I can honestly say between all those years, I was raped over a dozen times,” Palmitessa said.
Palmitessa says it was not just Johnson. Her story is similar to that of an alleged victim who did testify at his trial. That accuser said on the record, she was raped and forced to perform oral sex five to 10 times while she was incarcerated. The alleged victims say it happened in a closet near the “bubble.” That is where the guards are stationed.
“It was where all the cleaning supplies were and if you were a block worker, you were able to go in those closets. That’s where it absolutely always happened,” Palmitessa said.
Three former inmates and alleged victims of sexual assault at the prison, including Palmitessa, sued Lackawanna County last year. The county’s insurance company settled out of court with the accusers for more than $1 million in June.
“That wasn’t my intention at all. All I wanted was them to pay the price for what they had done,” Palmitessa said.
Palmitessa says the jury did not see or hear all of the possible testimony to hand down a proper verdict of guilty.
“I don’t feel the justice system is going to be able to make that decision without hearing Tammy speak her story or me speak my story. Like they’ve heard one woman on that stand and that’s it when it happened to several of us,” Palmitessa said.
Palmitessa asks anybody who has been sexually assaulted to come forward as soon as possible. She says if she had come forward sooner, she may have been taken more seriously.
Johnson says he will be asking for his old job back at the Lackawanna County Prison. His lawyer hopes the county will follow through like they have with other guards that were accused.