Judge Throws Out Retired Priest’s Sexual Assault Conviction
By Chris Hoffman
March 9, 2020
The conviction and sentencing of a retired priest accused of sexually abusing a boy in Munhall almost two decades ago have been vacated.
A judge threw out Father Hugh Lang’s conviction Monday.
The 89-year-old had been previously found guilty of molesting a then 10-year-old boy in 2001 while serving as a priest for St. Therese in Munhall.
He had been accused of making the victim take off his clothes, touching him inappropriately and taking naked photos of him.
There was a new judge in the case, Judge Anthony Mariani, and he says evidence the previous judge called dispositive in the case violated Lang’s due process. Lang will now get a new trial as his conviction was overturned.
Mariani disputed evidence of “conscience of guilt” being used to convict the retired priest. According to Lang’s defense attorney Robert Mielnicki, investigators came to Lang’s home looking for the alleged photo of the victim before they charged Lang. They looked at his iPad and found he was searching for criminal defense attorneys.
This was shortly after the attorney general’s grand jury report came out about the sexual abuse in several dioceses.
Mielnicki was pleased and says looking for an attorney should not convict a defendant. It could create a chilling effect on people trying to do the right thing in contacting an attorney.
With a new trial, Lang faces three counts of indecent assault, one count of indecent exposure and one count of corruption of minors.
The District Attorney’s office issued a statement, saying: “Our office feels badly for the victim and the victim’s family given that this case did not proceed to sentencing as expected. We believe today’s decision is contrary to the law and we will be filing a commonwealth appeal to Superior Court.”
Bishop David Zubik released a statement, saying:
“The Church recognizes the decision of the court, and will wait until all court proceeding are completed before moving forward in its canonical process. We continue to pray for all involved.”