By Steve Pope | August 20, 2018
A Westmoreland County Common Pleas judge who released a man from prison in May after he served 28 years for a rape conviction because some of the evidence used to convict him was unreliable, revoked his bond and ordered him jailed on Monday.
John Kunco, 53, was released from prison on a $10,000 unsecured bond after Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciana vacated Kunco’s 1990 conviction and ruled that bite mark evidence used to convict him is now unreliable. Subsequent DNA testing also failed to link Kunco to the 1990 rape for which he was sentenced to serve 45-90 years.
On Aug. 16, Allegheny County police charged Kunco with sexually assaulting his 6-year-old niece in McKees Rocks and he was jailed in lieu of a $25,000 bond, which he posted on Sunday and was released.
According to the criminal complaint Kunco molested the child at her father’s home one night while she was laying “on a futon with Uncle John,” the complaint said.
The child was sleeping and woke up seeing Kunco inappropriately touching her. The child “kept asking him to stop, but he wouldn’t,” the complaint alleges.
One of the conditions of Kunco’s release from the Westmoreland County Prison was that he not commit any crimes. After learning about the new charges and Kunco’s release from Allegheny County, Judge Feliciani ordered that Kunco be jailed immediately pending a bond revocation hearing that will take place within 30 days.
Kunco voluntarily surrendered himself to the prison Monday afternoon according to Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held.
In the 1990 case, Kunco was convicted of brutally raping and beating a woman for over six hours and tying her up with an electrical cord. The prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of two experts in bite mark analysis who said that a bite mark on the woman’s shoulder was made by Kunco.
In November the Pennsylvania Superior Court cast doubt on the bite mark evidence, when it noted the two experts were not willing to continue to say the bite mark was made by Kunco. The Court also ordered additional DNA testing on some items of evidence.
“Due to the questionable nature of the Commonwealth’s evidence, we think it more likely than not that reasonable jurors would find [Kunco] not guilty if the DNA tests on the blanket, rape kit and [the victim’s] underwear/girdle are exculpatory,” the Court said.
During the May hearing it was revealed that the DNA testing failed to link Kunco to the items tested.
The Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office has until the end of August to appeal the May ruling granting Kunco a new trial.
Karen Thompson, an attorney with The Innocence Project of New York who has been representing Kunco in his latest rounds of appeals, maintains Kunco is innocent of the 1990 rape. It is not clear whether Ms. Thompson will represent Kunco in his new case.
Steve Pope can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org