Trials & Litigation
Judge on trial for battery in dog-waste dispute will not face new charge, court rules
Posted Feb 5, 2014 4:14 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
Updated: The prosecution is pulling no punches in the Los Angeles misdemeanor battery trial of a county superior court judge accused of pushing a woman to the ground on his driveway last summer during a verbal altercation over the disposal of dog waste.
As Judge Craig Richman testified Tuesday, admitting in cross-examination that he had lied to the claimed victim in the case by telling her he was a peace officer, Richman may have made one comment too many, according to the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.).
"Am I charged with that?" Richman shot back at Deputy City Attorney Joshua M. Geller when, after Richman admitted the lie, Geller asked the judge if he knew impersonating a peace officer is a misdemeanor offense.
Richman hadn't faced this charge, but Geller later asked the presiding judge to add it to the battery case against Richman.
Attorney James Blatt, who represents Richman, argued to the court that Geller is "sandbagging the defense." Trying to add the new count is "ethically wrong," Blatt said.
By the end of day on Wednesday, the court had ruled in Richman's favor on this issue. Presiding Judge Christine C. Ewell said she understood why Geller made the request, but felt that allowing the new count would unduly prejudice the defense. Richman might have chosen not to testify, Ewell said, if he had understood from the outset that he could be charged with impersonating a peace officer, reports the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.).
Earlier, the 55-year-old Richman testified that the dispute at issue in the battery trial began when he politely asked Connie Romero to pick up a bag of dog waste he saw her drop on the ground in his neighborhood, as he was driving by toward his home. She told him she was going to get the bag on her way back with the dogs she was walking, and he suggested she put the bag on the curb, Richman said.
At that point, Romero began "spitting fire," the judge said, spewing a string of profanities at him and throwing the bag of waste into the front seat of his car. "If you want it so badly, here it is," she told him, laughing, according to Richman.
Critical to the outcome of the case is whether the jury believes the judge made the first physical move and pushed Romero after she followed him home, as the prosecution contends. The defense says Richman put his hands on Romero only to protect himself after she got in his face, insulted him and physically attacked him. At that point Romero got tangled up in the leashes of the dogs she was walking and tripped, the judge has said.
"I raised my hands and pushed her to separate her from me and create a safety zone," Richman told the jury.
He was offered a plea deal before the battery trial began that would have required him to attend anger management counseling, but refused it. If convicted, he could be sentenced to jail time.
ABAJournal.com: "Judge charged with battery over dog-waste dispute near his home"
ABAJournal.com: "Trial begins for judge facing misdemeanor battery charge in dog-waste dispute"
Updated on Feb. 6 to include subsequent Los Angeles Times coverage on court's ruling concerning requested new count and add to post and revise headline accordingly.