Bradford County district attorney pleads guilty, resigns amid sexual assault charges

Bradford County District Attorney Chad Salsman has entered a guilty plea and resigned his position as the top prosecutor in the northern Pennsylvania county following sexual assault charges brought against him earlier this year, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced.

Salsman, 44, was charged in February after a statewide investigative grand jury reviewed allegations by numerous women who said he took advantage of them while still working as a private attorney. He was elected district attorney in Bradford County in 2019.

Investigators said Salsman preyed upon vulnerable clients of his, many of them women in criminal and child custody cases who had problems with addiction, sexual abuse history and other personal struggles.

A grand jury report included testimony from five former clients and staff members in Salsman’s office who detailed a pattern of coercive sexual misconduct. Some of the women said they were pressured into sex in Salsman’s private office on multiple occasions and were told not to speak about what had happened to them.

According to prosecutors, Salsman intimidated and committed unwanted sexual acts with his clients on his office desk. Afterwards, he would instruct the victims to enter a small bathroom and clean themselves with paper towels or wipes.

One woman told the grand jury that Salsman had represented her boyfriend and another individual who had raped her. When she confided this history of sexual violence to Salsman, the attorney said nothing.

At a later visit, Salsman told the woman to enter the back private entrance into his office, where he allegedly told her to undress. The woman testified that she complied with Salsman’s request out of fear. After the encounter, Salsman allegedly threatened to ruin the woman’s life if she told anyone.

Staff at Salsman’s office told the grand jury they saw female clients leave in tears on multiple occasions and that the attorney had a long-standing policy of instructing his secretaries to play music, run noise machines or run the air conditioner to drown out the sounds of his meetings with clients. He frequently met with female clients one-on-one and would keep their files secret from his legal staff, prosecutors said.

The case was referred to the Attorney General’s office in late 2019 by outgoing Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett. Salsman later attempted to interfere with the investigation and described the prosecution as politically motivated.

“Chad Salsman used his position as a private attorney, and then as the District Attorney, to intimidate and silence his victims and interfere with our investigation. Today is a powerful reminder that no one is above the law,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “To date, we’ve arrested 90 public officials for charges related to public corruption, including embezzlement, sexual assault, and other abuses of power. My Office will continue to seek justice for victims as we uncover public corruption — wherever it lies.”

Salsman pleaded guilty to charges of intimidation, promoting prostitution and obstruction of justice. He also had been charged in February with sexual assault, indecent assault and intimidation of a witness, but those offenses were not included in the plea, which required his resignation from office.

“With this admission of guilt, the Office of Attorney General has ensured Mr. Salsman faces serious consequences, without retraumatizing vulnerable victims who came forward and testified to the grand jury,” Shapiro’s office said.

PhillyVoice