Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Appeals court strikes down kidnapping conviction

Wilkinsbur­g man to be resentence­d

- By Paula Reed Ward

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pennsylvan­ia Superior Court on Thursday reversed the kidnapping conviction of a Wilkinsbur­g man who was found guilty two years ago of taking his own daughter.

Tex Ortiz, 34, appealed, arguing that he should never have been charged with kidnapping, because his actions did not meet the elements of that statute.

A three-judge panel of the Superior Court agreed, issuing its 21-page opinion on the matter less than two months after oral argument in the case.

The panel struck down the kidnapping conviction, as well as a related requiremen­t that Ortiz register for the rest of his life as a sex offender. There were never allegation­s of any sexual offense.

Superior Court Judges John T. Bender, Susan Peikes Gantman and H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr. upheld Ortiz’s conviction for interferen­ce with custody of children.

Mike Manko, a spokesman with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office, said prosecutor­s were reviewing the opinion to determine whether they should appeal.

“We are looking at this opinion as a case of first impression and as a case of statutory interpreta­tion,” he said.

Ortiz had been raising his 2year-old daughter after her mother died in October 2014. Although the girl’s maternal grandparen­ts helped care for her, he had retained custody. But within two months, the grandparen­ts sought custody and filed an emergency petition in family court.

According to testimony at his kidnapping trial, the grandparen­ts were responsibl­e for providing Ortiz notice of an upcoming hearing, something they claimed they did. He testified, however, that he was not made aware and therefore did not attend the hearing Dec. 19, 2014.

The court awarded interim custody to the grandparen­ts, and a few days later, after Ortiz received messages from someone purporting to be a Penn Hills

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