DA’s office appeals tossed conviction of Pittsburgh-area priest accused of abuse
By Tom Davidson
March 17, 2020
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office on Monday appealed a judge’s decision last week to vacate the conviction of a retired priest who was accused of sexually abusing an altar boy two decades ago.
The office filed the appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court to reconsider a county judge’s decision.
The Rev. Hugh Lang, 89, who was formerly superintendent of schools for the Pittsburgh Diocese, was found guilty in a nonjury trial last year. He was sentenced in February to nearly two years in jail by Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani.
Lang was found guilty by embattled Judge Mark Tranquilli, who has since been removed from hearing cases and relegated to administrative duties because of alleged racist remarks in an unrelated case. Mariani took over the sentencing phase of the case.
Last week, Mariani agreed with Lang’s lawyers, who argued that Tranquilli erred by allowing evidence that Lang searched the internet for defense attorneys in advance of the release of a grand jury report on sexual abuse within dioceses across the state.
Mariani overturned Lang’s conviction on charges of unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of a minor, indecent exposure and indecent assault.
Both sides have agreed that if a retrial takes place, prosecutors will not be able to refile the felony count of unlawful contact with a minor because the statute of limitations has expired.
The district attorney’s office will be filing a brief outlining the reasons it is appealing, according to a statement from spokesman Mike Manko.
Lang was charged in January 2019 and the alleged abuse happened in 2001 when the victim was 11. The man now lives overseas.
He told police Lang abused him during altar server training while Lang was at St. Therese of Lisieux in Munhall.
Lang retired in 2006 and is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the court case, according to the diocese. The diocese noted that Lang has maintained his innocence and was exercising his right to appeal when his conviction and sentence was vacated.
“The church recognizes the decision of the court, and will wait until all court proceedings are completed before moving forward in its canonical process. We continue to pray for all involved,” Bishop David Zubik said in a statement.