Local magistrate Xander Orenstein pulled from arraignments ‘until further notice,’ sources say

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh District Judge Xander Orenstein has been pulled from arraignments for an undetermined amount of time, sources tell Channel 11.

Orenstein was told by the President Judge Wednesday morning that they were being pulled. The court administration told Channel 11 in a statement, “We removed District Judge Orenstein from hearing all arraignments for indefinite period of time.”

This decision comes after months of public scrutiny from top Allegheny County law enforcement leaders regarding Orenstein’s stance when it comes to no cash bail, specifically for defendants facing serious crimes.

Most recently — Allegheny County Sheriff Kevin Kraus spoke with Channel 11 about Orenstein’s decision to let Hermas Craddock out on non-monetary bond, after police say he lead officers on a high-speed chase.

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“I can tell you in my role as sheriff, as well as a member of the community, I think it’s highly irresponsible to not secure somebody’s appearance. Especially if they’re a danger to the community,” Sheriff Kraus told Channel 11.

Craddock never showed up to his court date this week, and there’s now a warrant for his arrest.

Over the winter, Orenstein let another man out on non-monetary bond, after police say he violently attacked an elderly man downtown unprovoked.

And before that, the case that put Orenstein in the headlines: The District Judge let a New York man who was accused of bringing in millions of dollars of drugs into Pittsburgh out of custody on no-cash bail. That suspect fled town, and wasn’t found until months later.

At the time, that case prompted strong criticism from District Attorney Stephen Zappala.

“This is not what we signed up for. This is not a judicial officer, or not what a judicial officer should do,” Zappala said.

There’s no time frame for how long Orenstein will be off the bench for criminal cases, but sources tell Channel 11 they are not on the schedule for the next month.

Sources tell 11 Investigates Orenstein will be assigned other duties until further notice, like traffic and housing cases. They will also be retrained and will shadow a veteran or senior magistrate.

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