PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani is facing dozens of complaints related to alleged misconduct.
An advocacy group has filed more than 60 misconduct complaints against Judge Mariani after reviewing criminal proceedings over the past two years.
The Abolitionist Law Center released a 48-page report with the complaints. The allegations against Mariani include using racist language with defendants in front of him, depriving defendants of due process and insulting defendants who try and defend themselves.
Court observers say Mariani is not overtly racist but his comments and decisions are biased and may have resulted in the death of one defendant.
For a year, volunteers with the Abolitionist Law Center sat in courtrooms observing judges for signs of bias and poor judgment. They say Mariani stood out.
"Clearly Judge Mariani was an outlier, routinely berating defendants," said Dolly Prabhu with the group.
Court observers say they repeatedly heard Mariani belittle Black defendants. While not overtly racist, the observers said Mariani would often refer to the physical size of Black defendants and indicate that they were threatening.
"Comments about Black men being physically imposing and intimidating, that they're a kind of threat to society. You always got that impression of that," said observer Ronald Read.
Read says Mariani was also biased in keeping people in jail, including Gerald Thomas, who died in the Allegheny County Jail on a probation detainer ordered by Mariani after a gun was found in his glove compartment during a traffic stop.
His attorney successfully argued that the search was not legal and the charges were thrown out, but Mariani kept Thomas in jail, telling him it was for his own safety. Thomas' mother, Juana Saunders, blames Mariani for her son's death, and the law center says the case is part of a pattern of bias against Black defendants.
Prabhu, who wrote the report, says the bias is clear but says Mariani lacks judicial temperament.
"He's a bully, plain and simple," Prabhu said.
The Abolitionist Law Center wants Mariani's behavior reviewed to see if he's fit to serve. The report also suggests potential reforms to prevent this from happening in the future.
KDKA tried to reach Mariani for comment but has not heard back.
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