BRADFORD COUNTY, Pa. (CBS/AP) -- A Pennsylvania county prosecutor was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting women who were his clients in criminal and child custody cases when he worked as a defense attorney. Bradford County District Attorney Chad Michael Salsman was charged with three counts of sexual assault, five counts of indecent assault, witness intimidation, obstruction and promoting prostitution.
A grand jury heard women describe being coerced and assaulted.
"Chad Salsman would regularly use his position and power as an attorney to coerce his victims into performing sexual acts on him. He would bring them into his private office, under the guise of discussing their case, and used his knowledge of his clients' vulnerabilities to negate their consent and sexually assault them," Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. "Salsman picked these victims because they didn't have any other choice, because he thought they would be easy to silence, and less likely to be believed if they ever came forward. As Attorney General, I have a responsibility to stand up for people who need a voice in our Commonwealth."
Authorities alleged Salsman stopped charging a client in a custody case after she began having sex with him. They said a woman told Salsman she had been raped, and the next time she saw him, he directed her to enter his office in Towanda through a back door and undress.
He's alleged to have told the women to keep quiet about his attacks, and people who worked in his law firm told investigators they repeatedly saw female clients leave his office crying.
A woman answering the phone at the Bradford district attorney's office on Wednesday said he directed her to take down email addresses from reporters asking about the charges.
"Five women, independent of one another, experienced the same pattern of advances, coercion, and assault at the hands of Mr. Salsman when he was a defense attorney," said Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a news release. "They had to rely on Salsman to be their advocate, to represent them at a time they felt powerless, and instead they were preyed upon."
A grand jury report issued last week said there were other women who recounted similar attacks, but those cases occurred too long ago for criminal charges. He began practicing law in 2001.
The case was referred to the attorney general's office in late 2019 by a former Bradford County district attorney, the grand jury wrote.
Salsman, a 44-year-old Republican, was elected in November 2019 to serve as top prosecutor in the rural county along the New York line.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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