TOWANDA — Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman will have his license to practice law in Pennsylvania suspended next month, according to a press release from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Salsman faces two dozen charges, including three separate charges of sexual assault, five separate charges of indecent assault, twelve counts of intimidation of a witness or victim, two counts of obstruction of justice, and two counts related to prostitution.
The alleged crimes took place during Salsman’s time as a private attorney. The Republican was elected district attorney in 2019.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the charges on Feb. 3.
Shapiro said that a grand jury heard from “numerous women who were coerced, manipulated, and sexually assaulted by Salsman while he served as their defense attorney. He repeatedly leveraged his power over his victims, who he counseled in criminal and child custody cases, by taking advantage of their vulnerabilities, exploiting them, and then forcing them into submission and silence.”
According to the findings of facts from the grand jury, Salsman “used his knowledge of (his clients) vulnerabilities to overcome their lack of consent and sexually assault them. In one case, Salsman assaulted a woman who he knew had been the victim of a prior violent rape. In another case, Salsman assaulted a woman who faced incarceration if Salsman did not help her.”
“Many of his clients struggled with addiction, some even had a history themselves of being sexually assaulted. These are the people that Salsman targeted for his own sick gratification,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro stressed that the five victims in this case came forward on their own and provided independent accounts of Salsman’s crimes.
The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued an order on Thursday stating that Salsman would be placed on temporary suspension, effective April 24.
Thursday’s order stated that it “should not be construed as removing Respondent from elected office and is limited to the temporary suspension of his license to practice law.”
Salsman was previously fighting the emergency temporary suspension petition with his attorney, Samuel C. Stretton, stating earlier this month that his client shouldn’t be penalized on allegations that have yet to be proven in court and that Salsman plans to fight, especially since this action would prevent him from supporting his family as the primary provider.
Furthermore, Stretton argued that an interim suspension would circumvent the constitutional process for removing an elected official.
“(Salsman), as any other person, is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” Stretton stated. “There has been no finding of guilt against him. He denies the allegations.”
“Because of the pending trial,” Stretton continued, “Mr. Salsman cannot be more specific in his current response, and of course, would petition the Disciplinary Board or this Honorable Court to defer his disciplinary prosecution pending the resolution of the criminal case. This is particularly so since it would be very unfair to force the Respondent to testify in advance of the criminal trial.”
Salsman had previously stepped back from trial work while the charges are pending and was only performing administrative duties while also advising his first assistant district attorney as needed.
Stretton said Salsman “has excellent defenses” to the charges, which he will refute at trial with evidence when he faces his accusers.
According to Stretton, who recently filed three motions to have the trial dismissed, the charges “are tainted by bias and prejudice.”
“The allegations were tainted by using witnesses to contact and speak and record Mr. Salsman by the Government when he was represented by counsel,” Stretton said while accusing the attorney general of “vindictive prosecution and prosecutorial misconduct.”
Due to Salsman’s absence from the courtroom, the Bradford County Commissioners have contracted with Laren Wolfe, an associate attorney with the Knolles Rosenbloom Law Office in Athens Borough, to help out the District Attorney’s Office part-time at a cost of $75 an hour.
The agreement was effective Wednesday and will continue through Dec. 31.