A relative of a prominent judge in suburban Philadelphia has entered a plea deal after going into her neighbor’s property and using a racial epithet during a confrontation in 2021. The woman was upset because the residents in the house were playing rap music she didn’t like.
On Jan. 28, 2021, Chester, Pennsylvania, police Sgt. Michael Dingler was dispatched to the 500 block of East 21st Street around 7:50 a.m. to address a physical altercation between a white woman, Theresa M. Pileggi, and two of her unnamed Black neighbors in their driveway.
According to a police affidavit, the person who lived in the house told the sergeant when she returned home and drove into her own driveway that morning, a “random white lady” drove up in a white Subaru behind her and barked, “turn that rap s— down because nobody wants to hear that,” Delcotimes.com reports.
The woman reportedly told Pileggi she didn’t have to turn the music off.
It was at this point, according to the report, Pileggi got out of her car and went up to the woman’s driver’s side of the door. In response, the woman demanded Pileggi get off her property, but she didn’t. Instead, the 65-year-old followed the woman to the back gate of the house.
The police claim states the woman called for her mother to come outside to help her address the harassment. That did not deter Pileggi, whose brother is Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge Dominic Pileggi. She continued to yell and spit into the woman’s face.
During the tirade, the Pileggi continued to use the N-word, according to the affidavit, and said, “you n— don’t own s— around here.”
By this time, the mother came outside. She allegedly heard the chaos outside and tried to de-escalate the incident by breaking in between the two and asking Pileggi to leave.
While the mother was talking to Pileggi, the first woman called the police.
The report says Pileggi never stopped shouting. Her aggression grew and defiantly she pushed past the two, opened the rear gate to a fenced part of the property, and tried to go up the stairs on the property. She attempted to go farther onto the property but was only impeded when the mother pulled her back and again told her to go back to her car.
While on the phone with the police, the first woman snapped pictures on her cellphone of the woman and her license plate.
When Dingler responded to the dispatch, he observed upon arrival the three women arguing. He quickly assessed the situation and told Pileggi to go to her car. Eventually, she obeyed the officer’s instruction, but not without continuing to yell and call the two women the N-word, the affidavit recorded.
On her way to her car, Pileggi tripped and fell. As a result, she reportedly threatened to sue the family. Three women would have their day in court, but not because of the fall — Pileggi was arrested for the racially motivated altercation.
The white woman was charged with several counts of ethnic intimidation and harassment, multiple counts of defiant trespass, and disorderly conduct.
Judge Pileggi recused himself from the case because of his relationship with the aggressor.
The judge, who also was a former Republican Chester mayor and state senator, relinquished his authority in the court and visiting Berks County Judge Steven Lieberman oversaw the case.
Deputy Attorney General Katherine McDermott negotiated the deal with Pileggi’s defense attorney, Traci Burns, who wanted her client to receive one year of probation. She pushed that this was her first time in trouble and revealed she voluntarily completed an anger management program after being arrested that winter morning, on Monday, June 13.
Burns said her client worked as a health care provider for most of her career in underserved communities that were mostly populated by Black people and hoped this one argument doesn’t paint her poorly.
Sources note Pileggi served as an acute care nurse practitioner, licensed for the care of patients diagnosed with acute medical conditions, often working alongside a medical team or a board-certified physician, specifically with people with spinal injuries.
“This was an incident between neighbors that went too far,” Burn said. “Ugly words were spoken by my client. I heard on that very same video ugly words spoken by the alleged victims back at my client.”
Burns framed the altercation as a time when “good people exercised poor judgment.” One act of poor judgment Burns acknowledged her client exercised was getting out of her car to confront her neighbors.
The woman who had the most interaction with Pileggi said, “Her attorney is saying … ‘good people do bad things sometimes,’ and I get that, but good people aren’t racist.”
“You don’t go up to a neighbor you don’t know and call them a n—. You don’t do that,” she continued. “You don’t do racist stuff if you’re not racist. Racist people do racist things.”
Still, she didn’t want her neighbor to go to jail, believing she was too old to serve time. A sentence of a two-year probation period with additional community service was handed down by the presiding judge.
McDermott asked for the extra year because before the case went to its preliminary hearing stage, Pileggi drove by the plaintiff and “gave her the finger,” and after the hearing, when the judge told her to leave the premises, she refused, and sheriff’s deputies had to come to make her leave.
“This is the type of disrespect and the complete lack of acceptance of responsibility – the defendant is not remorseful for this incident, which I think is very clear given her behavior not just the day of the incident, but after the incident,” McDermott stated.
“Giving her the finger … speaking under breath – like she did just now – at the preliminary hearing when the complainant is crying on the stand about the incident that happened … This was not an anomaly,” McDermott said. “This was this woman’s behavior.”
The judge brought up hearing the woman’s voice on the 911 call saying, “you’re a nasty n—” and audibly grunting when she saw the woman in court.
With these considerations, the judge said the woman should look at two years of probation as “a gift.”
With the plea, Pileggi still maintains that the accusations against her are lies.
“Much of what the commonwealth is saying is completely untrue,” she said to the judge. “Much of what [the victim] is saying is completely untrue.”
The woman shared with the court all three women had lived in the neighborhood together with backyards right across from each other for at least 20 years — and no one is moving.
Burns asked the judge to mandate the two households act civilly toward each other.
“If something else occurs in the neighborhood, I have no control over that, really,” said Lieberman. “But if it rises to another criminal offense, then Miss Pileggi can be resentenced if there’s new charges filed.”
“I really am hoping that despite other occurrences, that there’s absolutely no repeat involvement between you and Miss Pileggi,” he said.
Pileggi, in addition to probation and a criminal record, was mandated by the court to pay a $600 fine. Despite living in close proximity, she was told to have no contact with the plaintiffs or their family members — and if she does, they are to contact authorities immediately.