Parole board decides to let Trantino go free yet again

Posted: July 30, 2004

Thomas Trantino, New Jersey's longest-serving prison inmate, will be a free man once again today.

The state parole board announced yesterday that it would lift a warrant filed against Trantino when he was arrested last year on charges of beating his girlfriend.

A jury acquitted Trantino last week on six charges and deadlocked on a seventh charge. Prosecutors said they would not retry him on the remaining count, leaving his fate in the hands of the parole board.

The board could have found that Trantino violated his lifetime parole even though he was acquitted of beating his girlfriend because the standard of proof for a parole violation is less than at a criminal trial. Instead, the board decided to allow him to leave jail with some new conditions on his parole.

Trantino, who served 38 years for the 1963 murders of two Lodi police officers, has been in the Camden County jail for more than eight months. He is scheduled to be released today.

"I'm delighted that the parole board has recognized this is the right thing to do," said Justin Loughry, Trantino's attorney. "He's already spent eight and a half months in jail, and that's too much."

Trantino was sentenced to death for the 1963 murders, but that sentence was changed to a life term when the state abolished the death penalty in 1972. In New Jersey, prisoners serving life terms are eligible for parole after 30 years. After 11 parole hearings, the state Supreme Court ordered Trantino released in February 2002.

Trantino, who was heralded as a model prisoner, settled in Camden and began working as a counselor for a Quaker-based program that aids recently released felons. He plans to return to work with the program.

Trantino, 66, met his girlfriend, Carmen Gonzalez, an admitted heroin addict, at work. She alleged last year that Trantino held her against her will and beat her. Trantino said he was trying to keep her from committing suicide by jumping off a roof.

Under the new terms of his parole, Trantino is barred from having any contact with Gonzalez, and he must participate in an intensive supervision program.

Contact staff writer Troy Graham at 856-779-3893 or tgraham@phillynews.com.

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