Saturday, December 8, 2018
Allegheny Co PA Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel gets booted from resentencing hearing of SO
An appeals courts rules against your court ruling and remands the case for resentencing. What do you do? If you're Donna Jo McDaniel, you respond by making the same ruling in defiance. This worthless excuse of a judge needs to be removed from the bench.
Superior Court removes Allegheny County judge from sex offender's resentencing
PAULA REED WARD
NOV 28, 2018
The state Superior Court, in a rare move Wednesday, ordered Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel to be removed from a case, finding that there was “substantial evidence” that she “demonstrated bias and personal animus” against both the defendant and the public defender’s office representing him.
The three-judge panel of the appellate court wrote a blistering 13-page opinion that also ordered that Anthony McCauley be sentenced again by a new judge. It is one of a series of opinions by the Superior Court dating to January 2017 in which Judge McDaniel has been questioned for her sentencing of sex offenders.
“The trial court’s animus and hostility to appellant’s counsel and the [Allegheny County] Public Defender’s office appears to be deep, unwavering and demonstrates an unjustified bias against the Public Defender’s office,” wrote Superior Court Judge Alice Beck Dubow.
The Superior Court also criticized Judge McDaniel for using inappropriate sarcasm in her written opinion; for denying McCauley a fair and constitutional sentencing hearing; and for failing to follow previous Superior Court orders, therefore wasting judicial resources.
Ordered to redo an 'unreasonable' sentence, judge responds by imposing the exact same punishment. In a footnote, the appellate court also chastised her for including the full name of the child victim in McCauley’s case in her opinion.
“Not only do we disapprove of this practice, but it is also contrary to [Pennsylvania law], which makes it a criminal offense for an officer or employee of the court to reveal the name of a minor victim of sexual abuse in documents available to the public,” Judge Dubow wrote.
Although the prospect of referring Judge McDaniel to the Judicial Conduct Board was raised by the prosecution during oral argument on McCauley’s case in April, the Superior Court opinion does not mention the disciplinary organization.
Judge McDaniel could not be reached for comment.
Amie Downs, the county’s spokeswoman, declined comment on behalf of the public defender’s office.
The most recent case to bring scorn from the Superior Court was an appeal of a second sentencing proceeding for McCauley, 45. He was convicted in 2014 of rape and years-long abuse of a girl.
Initially, Judge McDaniel sentenced McCauley to 20 to 40 years in prison. On appeal, McCauley’s defense attorney questioned whether that penalty was mandatory or discretionary.
The Superior Court sent the case back to Judge McDaniel in October 2016 and told her to clarify that question.
At resentencing in December 2016, she did not address that issue, the court found, and instead changed the penalty only slightly — to 20 years less two days to 40 years less four days.
Judge McDaniel did not allow McCauley to speak, did not review a new pre-sentence report for him, and did not provide any of the due process that is required for a criminal sentencing, the Superior Court concluded.
That prompted new appeals from the public defender’s office, which represented McCauley, and a request that Judge McDaniel recuse herself.
In its opinion Wednesday, Superior Court wrote that it did not like Judge McDaniel’s behavior in the case.
“In particular, the trial court’s opinion is filled with gratuitous comments denigrating appellant’s counsel and the Public Defender’s office,” the panel wrote.
The three judges said they believe she made a “veiled threat” questioning the attorney’s and office’s credibility and implied that their continued appeal of her sentence could be “harmful to other criminal defendants who may actually have meritorious claims.”
The panel also criticized Judge McDaniel for sarcasm it said she used in her opinion.
“This sarcasm is disrespectful to appellant, counsel and the seriousness of the sentencing process,” they wrote.
Four times in the opinion, the panel said it was either “troubled” by Judge McDaniel’s actions or found them “troubling.”
The court cited her failure to follow its instructions on remand, including on two sex offender cases in which she was ordered to resentence the defendants and gave them the same penalties she’d previously imposed.
“This has resulted in an extensive deployment of judicial resources to review, analyze, and rectify the court’s deficient sentencing hearings,” the panel wrote.
In both of those cases, Judge McDaniel sentenced the defendants to twice what guidelines recommended.
At both hearings, Judge McDaniel said from the bench that she conducted a statistical analysis of her cases from 2012 to 2016, claiming that her sentences for sex offenders were comparable to those of other judges.
In its opinion Wednesday, the Superior Court noted that Judge McDaniel did not include any of her analyses in the certified record, making it impossible for the panel to consider her conclusions.
Still, it continued, “a statistical analysis would not compel a different result.”
President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said late Wednesday that he had not seen the opinion and could not comment on it.
“Judge McDaniel is an extremely bright and dedicated judge who has for many years protected the rights of the accused and at the same time guarded the rights of the victims and witnesses in very serious, often vicious, sex offender cases which can spark significant disagreement between counsel and the court,” Judge Manning said.
“I will review the opinion and abide by the lawful orders of the appellate court.”