Mississippi Supreme Court upholds Piccaluga conviction in 2020 rape case
Published 2:56 pm Friday, May 13, 2022
The Mississippi Supreme Court has refused to review the 2020 conviction of a former pastor on statutory rape and one count of sexual battery involving two 14-year-old girls, according to information from the court.
The Rev. Troy Anthony Piccaluga, 52, was convicted on March 5, 2020, on the charges and sentenced by Circuit Judge Toni Walker Terrett to 50 years in prison.
Piccaluga appealed the verdict to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, claiming the trial judge erred by denying his motion to suppress a portion of his recorded interview with law enforcement, by allowing “repeated instances of improper prosecutorial comment,” by allowing the use of a transcript of a recorded telephone call and by permitting a lay witness to give improper opinion testimony.
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The Appeal Court judges found no reversible error and affirmed, or upheld, the verdict.
Attorneys for Piccaluga then filed a writ seeking to have the state Supreme Court review the case. In a May 4 ruling denying the request, the Supreme Court upheld Piccaluga’s conviction.
According to the court’s opinion, “There was no ‘prosecutorial misconduct’ during the trial. Finally, the trial judge did not abuse her discretion by allowing the jurors to use a transcript while the recorded phone call was played or by overruling Piccaluga’s objection during the redirection examination of Investigator (Todd) Dikes.
“Because Piccaluga fails to identify any reversible error, his convictions and sentences are affirmed.”
“That’s great,” Ninth Circuit District Attorney Ricky Smith said. “That should be ended now. We appreciate the fact that the court denied cert. That was a case we felt strongly about that and glad that this will not be prolonged by an additional appeal.”
Piccaluga is serving his sentence at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian his scheduled release date is in September 2069.
Piccaluga, then 48 and former pastor of the Eagle Lake and Redwood United Methodist churches, was arrested on March 30, 2018, at his home in the Redwood community by Warren County sheriff’s deputies after an investigation into a complaint about a girl between the ages of 14 and 16 having a sexual relationship with an older man.
The second victim was discovered during the investigation into the initial complaint, and he was initially charged with two counts of statutory rape and one count of sexual battery.
At the trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on one of the rape counts.
Piccaluga’s sentencing was originally set for March 27.
As the conviction was being announced during the trial, Piccaluga reportedly attempted suicide in the courtroom and was later placed on suicide watch while being held in the Warren County Jail.
When the clerk was reading the guilty verdict, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said after the trial, courtroom deputies saw Piccaluga, who was out on bond, “pull a handful of what appeared to be pills out of his pocket and take them.”
Piccaluga was taken to the Merit Health River Region emergency room, where he was treated and later released and booked into the Warren County Jail.