A judge in western Pennsylvania has thrown out the conviction of a retired Roman Catholic priest accused of having assaulted a boy almost two decades ago.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani said Monday he believed the Rev. Hugh Lang hadn't received a fair trial. He said prosecutors should not have been allowed to submit evidence that Lang did an Internet search for defense attorneys before the release of a grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
A spokesman for the county district attorney's office vowed an appeal to Superior Court, saying officials believed the decision was “contrary to the law."
The 89-year-old defendant was convicted last year of indecent assault and other charges involving a preteen boy in 2001 when he was pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Munhall. Authorities alleged that during altar boy training, Lang molested and photographed the child. Lang testified that he didn't know the alleged victim and denied any abuse.
A judge earlier delayed implementation of a nine- to nearly 24-month jail sentence pending Monday's hearing. Lang was also convicted of a felony count of unlawful contact with a minor, but even before the convictions were tossed out, prosecution and defense agreed that that charge had been filed too late under the statute of limitations.
The district attorney's office said “Our office feels badly for the victim and the victim’s family given that this case did not proceed to sentencing as expected." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that after the hearing Lang was embraced by supporters, including at least two priests and declined comment on the ruling.