NY judge fired for pointing gun at black man in court

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An upstate New York judge who pointed a loaded gun at a Black man during a court hearing in 2015 was removed from office Thursday by the state's highest court.

Judge Robert J. Putorti was a judge of the Whitehall Town and Village Court. He repeatedly emphasized the litigant's race and height in recounting the episode, sometimes boastfully, according to an independent review by the New York State Court of Appeals. Putorti had said he pointed the gun at the man because he approached the stand too quickly, crossing a stop line for litigants.

In one case, Putorti described the defendant to another judge as 6 feet 9 inches tall (206 cm) and “built like a football player.” In reality, the man was only 6 feet (183 cm) tall and weighed 165 pounds (75 kg), the decision states.

The high court upheld Putorti's dismissal by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, noting that the former judge's description of the defendant “exploited a classic and common racist trope that black men are inherently threatening or dangerous, exhibiting bias or, at least, implicit bias. »

Putorti's lack of remorse after the gun episode contributed to his dismissal, according to the decision.

Putorti also participated in prohibited fundraising events to benefit the Elks Lodge, where he also held office, which occurred while he was under investigation for the gun episode.

While the fundraising itself would not justify a dismissal, its timing and the fact that it occurred while Putorti was under investigation showed “an unwillingness or inability to comply with the Rules of Judicial Conduct,” the decision noted.

Phone messages left with Putorti's attorneys at Cerio Law Offices in Syracuse were not immediately returned.

"It is indefensible and contrary to the role of a judge to brandish a loaded gun in court, without provocation or justification, and then repeatedly boast about it with irrelevant racial comments," said Robert H. Tembeckjian, administrator of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. . , in a sentence. "Today's Court ruling makes it clear that there is no place on the court for someone who behaves in this way."

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