Victim advocates call for BradCo DA’s resignation

Multiple local victim advocacy organizations and representatives have called for Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman to step down from his position following Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s Wednesday (Feb. 3) announcement of more than 20 charges against him, including felonies of sexual assault and intimidating victims and witnesses.

The Abuse and Rape Crisis Center in Bradford County issued a press release on Friday which stated that they are “appalled at the accounts of sexual abuse, intimidation, and solicitation of prostitution” Salsman is accused of and urged him to resign from the elected office for the safety of local individuals, especially victims who are or will soon be navigating the court system.

The ARCC press release noted it is exceptionally important that Salsman removes himself from office as he abused the women he allegedly assaulted while acting as their defense attorney or the attorney for someone close to them.

ARCC Executive Director Amy Miller highlighted Salsman’s alleged abuse of power and “strategic targeting of victims, those especially vulnerable within the justice system,” stating that sexual violence “is often about power” and that him remaining in his position at the courthouse could present more danger.

“Salsman’s position at the courthouse provides him with the opportunity to identify future potential victims and provides him with information to use coercion and power and control tactics to further

 victimize them,” the press release read. “The role of the District Attorney is to determine which cases to prosecute and then prosecute those cases on behalf of the county. The cases that generally go before the District Attorney are those on behalf of the very type of victim that he has allegedly been assaulting and exploiting for his sexual purposes.”

“There is no place in our communities for sexual violence in any form-especially at the hands of the elected official who swore an oath to uphold the law and hold those who break it accountable,” the press release continued. “Few female victims will feel safe or that their voices are heard if Salsman continues in his role as District Attorney based on these allegations of heinous abuse of power and sexual assault.”

Miller also used the press release to reassure those who were reportedly victimized by Salsman that they are supported, saying, “we admire and extend our support to all of the victims who have come forward to share their experiences. It takes an incredible amount of courage for a survivor to come forward, and the level of attention surrounding a high-profile case such as this makes it even more daunting to speak out.”

Bradford County court-appointed child advocate Megan Wells has also urged Salsman to remove himself from the office of District Attorney.

Wells explained that as Bradford County Child Advocate, she is responsible for “help(ing) child victims navigate their way through the judicial process as painlessly as possible” and can no longer approve of Salsman being a part of that process in good faith.

“In this role I have asked children and their families to trust the system. I have asked parents and guardians to entrust their children to me, and to you, as we prepare them to trudge through the darkest moments in their young lives,” she stated in a letter addressing Salsman. “A horrifying majority of these children are victims of sexual assault. I have asked parents to send their vulnerable children into a room with a prosecutor from your office. I join these meetings when requested, where these children are prompted to recount the horrors they have suffered. I have asked that they trust you to adequately explore their stories and ready them to so bravely testify against their abusers.”

“Given the various findings outlined in the Grand Jury’s Presentment No. 14, I cannot in good conscience ask these parents to send their precious, vulnerable children to you. I cannot ask that they trust you to seek justice for their babies while these charges are pursued,” Wells continued.

Wells declared that while she recognized that Salsman is, like any other American citizen, innocent until proven guilty, he “need not act in (his) role as District Attorney until proven guilty” and should “spare” young Bradford County victims and their families “additional trauma” by taking a leave from office while the case against him is ongoing.

“During your campaign for District Attorney, you promised to seek justice for crime victims while protecting Constitutional rights. Here, you have the opportunity to do both,” Wells said. “Allow these children and their families to seek a justice unburdened by your seeking the cover of your own Constitutional rights. Please, for the sake of these children, their families, and their right to justice, I ask that you step down from your role as District Attorney at this time.”

The Children’s House Child Advocacy Center in Towanda responded to accusations against Salsman on Friday as well, with a call for him “to recuse himself from investigating or prosecuting any cases involving crimes of a sexual nature handled through CHCAC, and for his responsibility in regard to child abuse case proceedings be transferred wholly to the office’s other capable assistant district attorneys.”

In a press release, CHCAC stated that given the charges against Salsman, especially those of sexual assault, he is unable to perform his duties overseeing cases involved with the organization, whose mission is to reduce trauma to children who have experienced abuse through providing a safe environment for agencies to work with them.

The press release explained that as District Attorney, Salsman has been the lead attorney on CHCAC’s Multi-Disciplinary Investigative Team and thus “responsible for the investigation and prosecution of cases involving child abuse allegations in Bradford County” and his continued participation would pose “an unacceptable conflict with our mission to pursue healing and justice for victims and their families.”

“While the allegations against Mr. Salsman do not involve child victims or families served by CHCAC, it would contradict the purpose of the MDIT and our agency for anyone credibly accused of crimes of a sexual nature to continue serving child victims of similar crimes,” the press release stated.

CHCAC’s press release showed support for victims of abuse, stating that the organization “understands how difficult it is for a victim to disclose abuse of any form, and admires the courage required to do so.”

CHCAC noted that any individuals, “including current or former clients of CHCAC,” who may have experienced or suspects that abuse has occurred is encouraged by the Office of the Attorney General to contact Troop P of the Pennsylvania State Police at (570) 836-2141.

At the time of publication, Salsman has stated that he will not resign from the position of Bradford County District Attorney but has “delegated trial and courtroom work to his assistants while the case against him is pending.”

 

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