More Appeals Expected after Judge Throws out Pittsburgh Judge Mark Tranquilli’s Conviction of Retired Priest
By Andy Sheehan
March 9, 2020
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After being convicted by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli in December 2019, a retired priest accused of sexually abusing a boy in Munhall almost two decades ago will be getting a new trial.
He may not be the last Tranquilli defendant to get one.
On Monday, Judge Anthony Mariani overturned the conviction handed down by Tranqulli that Hugh Lang molested an 11-year-old back in 2001.
Mariani ruled that Tranquilli allowed evidence that should have been inadmissible and convicted Lang on a felony charge that was past the statute of limitations.
“I am ordering a new trial,” Mariani said from the bench. “I do not believe this was a fair trial.”
Tranquilli was reassigned to administrative duties last month after KDKA first reported he allegedly referred to a black woman juror as “Aunt Jemima”.
President Judge Kim Berkley Clark has temporarily removed Tranquilli from the bench and reassigned Lang’s case to Mariani for sentencing. But now other Tranqulli rulings are also in doubt.
The district attorney confirmed on Monday that since Tranquilli’s removal, two other defendants have petitioned for their Tranquilli convictions and sentences to be thrown out under what’s called the Post Conviction Relief Act.
PCRA petitions offer relief to defendants who can prove they were denied a fair trial. The district attorney would not disclose the specific cases or whether they allege racial prejudice on the part of Judge Tranquilli.
But last month, Judge David Cashman ordered the release of more than a half dozen probation violators that Tranquilli had placed in county jail.
Sheehan: Are you finding that they were in three without cause or improperly?
Cashman: I wouldn’t say improperly. I have a difference of opinion as to whether I would have put them in.
The district attorney’s office disagrees with Judge Mariani in throwing out Lang’s conviction and says it will be appealing the decision to Commonwealth Court.
In the meantime, more appeals of Judge Tranquilli’s convictions and sentences are expected.