PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Uncovered transcripts of other cases are raising more concerns about the Pittsburgh judge who is accused of calling a black juror “Aunt Jemima.”
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan learned that earlier this month that career prosecutor and current Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli was re-assigned after he made the alleged racists remark in January 2020.
In the closed-door meeting with a defense attorney and an assistant district attorney, Tranquilli is quoted as calling the black woman juror “Aunt Jemima” and musing about her having a drug-dealing “baby daddy” at home.
Defense Attorney William Difenderfer said the alleged “Aunt Jemima” comment sent a bad message to African Americans about our judicial system.
Transcripts of other cases obtained by KDKA may do the same, like this sentencing of an unmarried African American mother of two from different fathers on drug charges
Tranquilli: So, are you familiar with the phrase, ‘If you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas?’ Have you ever heard that before in your life?
Defendant: I have.
Tranquilli: So now you have laid down twice with dogs, but you have woken up with two lovely children, probably two lovely children I’m betting you probably were not planning on. And for the cost of three shiny quarters in any bathroom in any rest stop in Pennsylvania, you probably could have gone in a different direction.
“Telling a woman for three shiny quarters, you could have gone in a different direction — read between the lines — had you used protection you’d be much better off without those two children. Really? As a judge, you’re saying that?” Difenderfer said.
Tranquilli, once a tough prosecutor, has a reputation of carrying that attitude over to the bench and in the case goes on to affirm that.
“I have a notoriously low tolerance for misbehavior. I was a district attorney for 20 years, and for the last 13 years, all I did was dead body cases, dead body, dead body, dead body. For the last eight years, I ran the homicide unit. If I had a nickel for every picture of a dead person I looked at on my desk while I was eating a turkey sandwich, I could retire right now and be a rich man. As a result of these experiences, there is no milk of human kindness left in these veins.”
“Isn’t that wonderful? That’s just who I want to be in front of as a defendant,” Difenderfer said.
In another case, Tranquilli tells a young black man convicted of possessing a stolen gun that same thing and he advises him no to procreate.
Tranquilli: Do you have any children?
Defendant: No, sir.
The Court: Well, you’re a young man. I think probably we should keep it that way…I am not saying that because I am not a family man. I have three kids of my own. My
parents got married when they were 20 because they had to because my mother got in trouble. They got married and it didn’t last long. You know, so keep your eye on the ball.
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- Complaint Alleges Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli Referred To Black Juror As ‘Aunt Jemima’
- Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark Tranquilli Reassigned, Accused Of Making Racially-Charged Remarks
- Pittsburgh NAACP Calling For Investigation Into Judge Who Allegedly Referred To Black Juror As ‘Aunt Jemima’
But in both these cases, he told the defendants he was giving them a break — house arrest and probation instead of jail.
Through his staff, Tranquilli has declined to comment.
Difenderfer said the comments are condescending and inappropriate for a judge.
Following the initial allegations related to the closed-door meeting, Tranquilli will not preside over any cases. Several defendants jailed on probation violations by Tranquilli were also released.
According to a report prepared by the Pennsylvania Commission on sentencing, Tranquilli has been tougher on white defendants than on blacks. The commission figures find Tranquilli’s record to be in the mainstream with his fellow judges in the sentencing of black defendants and defendants overall.
Earlier this month, the NAACP rallied against Tranquilli in the wake of his alleged comments.