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Complaint Alleges Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli Referred To Black Juror As 'Aunt Jemima'

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A complaint details the alleged racially-charged remarks made by an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge in a closed-door conference.

KDKA's Andy Sheehan learned on Tuesday that career prosecutor and current Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli was re-assigned after sources say he made the alleged remark two weeks ago.

A memorandum obtained by KDKA lays out what Tranquilli said behind closed doors.

In a closed-door meeting with a defense attorney and an assistant district attorney, Tranquilli is quoted as calling a black woman juror "Aunt Jemima" and muses about her having a drug-dealing "baby daddy" at home.

In his written statement, Assistant DA Ted Dutkowski said he was so sickened by the remarks that he wished to leave the judge's chambers and was moved to write a complaint detailing what was said.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

The closed-door conference came at the conclusion of a drug trial two weeks ago in which Dutkowski said Tranquilli "was not happy" the jury rendered a 'not guilty' verdict.

In chambers, Tranquilli questioned the assistant DA about why he had not moved to strike or block a black woman juror during jury selection weeks before.

"You weren't out of strikes when you decided to put Aunt Jemima on the jury," Tranquilli is alleged to say.

The document alleges Tranquilli said of the woman who had her hair in a headdress, "As soon as she sat down, she crossed her arms and looked like this."

Dutokwski said the judge then crossed his arms and scowled, then continued: "You know darn well that when she goes home to her baby daddy, he's probably slinging heroin too."

The DA's office gave the memorandum to President Judge Kim Berkley Clark, who issued an order temporarily re-assigning Tranquilli to summary appeals, where he will review magistrate cases ranging from traffic fines to truancy.

Clark forwarded the complaint to the state judicial conduct board for investigation.

According to the complaint, Dutkowski later spoke with Defense Attorney Joe Otte, who was also disturbed by the comments and told Dutkowski he was considering some action on his part and said he would be careful about bringing African-American defendants before Tranquilli.

When KDKA's Andy Sheehan spoke with Otte last week, he declined to comment.

But the statements are being corroborated by the two attorneys in the room.

Prior to becoming a judge, Tranquilli supervised all homicide prosecutions.

Known as a tough prosecutor, Tranquilli earned a reputation for being tough on crime and defendants.

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