Judge recuses himself from trial of Officer Rosfeld in killing of Antwon Rose |

Judge recuses himself from trial of Officer Rosfeld in killing of Antwon Rose

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani
Michael Rosfeld

The judge assigned to the homicide trial for East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld recused himself from the case Wednesday, a week after saying he would not step aside.

Allegheny Court of Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani stepped down from the case. Judge Alexander Bicket will take over the case, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Rosfeld faces one count of homicide in the June 19 killing of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II as he ran from a felony traffic stop. Rose was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Mariani said during a hearing Wednesday that his decision came down to concerns over the appearance of impropriety. The judge said he wanted to err on the side of caution.

“The appearance of impropriety issue is a very broad brush, and it goes far beyond actual intent,” he said.

Both attorneys in the case — Patrick Thomassey for Rosfeld and Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Daniel Fitzsimmons for the prosecution — have accused each other of unethical behavior, Mariani said. The judge did not want questions over his bias or impartiality to further cloud the case.

“The context is one that I think forces me into the position that I’m in,” he said.

Thomassey had asked Mariani to recuse himself in light of comments he made two days after the shooting. The judge appears in a regular segment on PCNC’s NightTalk called “Sidebar with Judge Mariani.”

Mariani was assigned to the case on Aug. 17.

In the segment, which aired June 21, Mariani “used words such as ‘Maybe he shot this man out of frustration’ and ‘Maybe the training wasn’t adequate,’” Thomassey said.

Thomassey had questioned whether Mariani could remain impartial after having made those statements, but Mariani said during a pre-trial conference on Sept. 11 that he had no plans to do so.

“I don’t think I am incapable of presiding over this case,” he said at the time. He said that if had, he’d have recused himself already by that point.

The hearing had initially been scheduled to hear arguments regarding a motion filed last week by Fitzsimmons requesting a gag order on the case, which would bar attorneys and witnesses from making any statements to the media.

That request had stemmed from Thomassey’s comments made after the Sept. 11 pre-trial conference, according to the motion.

“At various times … counsel for the defendant has made extrajudicial statements to members of the print, radio and television media that would tend to prejudice the trial process …” Fitzsimmons wrote in the motion.

Chief among the statements were those in which Thomassey alleged that prosecutors were “trying to hide something.”

Thomassey had begun to defend his statements before Mariani interjected with his recusal.

“All I did was reiterate what I said in court,” Thomassey said. He called it unfair to Rosfeld – “he has not said one word,” he said.

“He said I was trying to hide exculpatory evidence,” Fitzsimmons responded.

The hearing for the motion for the gag order has not been scheduled. The trial date remains set for Feb. 26.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.