Former county councilman's trial on theft charge delayed again

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The trial of a former Allegheny County councilman and his sister accused of stealing money from an elderly widow has been delayed again.

Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen, who has had the case for more than five years, on Wednesday recused himself. He is retiring in November, and the attorneys for Charles P. McCullough and his sister, Kathleen McCullough, were unable to agree on a trial date before that time.

The case will now go back to the administrative judge for reassignment.

That means it is likely to be weeks before a new date can be set.

It has been delayed at least nine times.

“This case has been around a long time,” Judge Machen said. “And I've entertained every one of your requests for continuance. I’m sending the case back for reassignment.

“Best of luck to all of you.”

The delays have been for various reasons, including both defendants’ switching counsel repeatedly.

Jon Pushinsky took over for Mr. McCullough in 2011 and filed an interim appeal to the state Superior Court in 2012 arguing that the charges against his client are prohibited because a court of equal jurisdiction, Allegheny County Orphans Court, approved the expenditures from the woman’s account.

But the appellate court in March rejected the argument, and the state Supreme Court refused to take the case.

Another delay occurred because of a death in Mr. Pushinsky’s family.

Mr. McCullough, 59, of Upper St. Clair, served on the County Council from 2007 to 2011. He was charged in 2009 with stealing more than $200,000 from an elderly woman for whom he served as a trustee and had power of attorney.

Ms. McCullough is charged with conspiracy and theft. She was hired to serve as Shirley Jordan’‍s companion, and the prosecution alleges she was paid exorbitant fees for simple tasks, such as gift wrapping.

Patrick Nightingale, who will now represent Ms. McCullough, told Judge Machen he would need at least a month or two to get up to speed on the case.

Paula Reed Ward:, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard. First Published July 16, 2014 12:00 AM

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