Ex-NY Judge Is Removed from Bench for Allegedly Molesting Deaf 5-Year-Old Niece 40 Years Ago

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A New York judge who abruptly resigned without explanation in April has been retroactively removed from office by state disciplinary officials for allegedly sexually molesting his deaf 5-year-old niece 40 years ago.

The removal of former Onondaga County Family Court Judge Bryan Hedges by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct renders him ineligible for judicial office in the future, the New York Law Journal and the Syracuse Post Standard report.

Hedges, 65, was accused of molesting his deaf 5-year-old niece in 1972, a year before he became a lawyer and 13 years before he became a judge. But the incident didn’t come to light until earlier this year, and the statute of limitations precludes a criminal prosecution.

While Hedges and his niece, now a 45-year-old woman, disagree over some of the details of the incident, he reportedly admitted in a recent tape-recorded conversation with the woman’s mother that the encounter had taken place, calling his behavior “abhorrent,” “totally wrong,” “indefensible” and “very, very, very bad.”

The commission, in an unsigned 7-2 decision (PDF), said the removal of a judge for misconduct so remote in time is rare. But Hedges’ conduct was “so abhorrent” and of sufficient gravity as to render him unfit for judicial office.

Hedges’ lawyer, Robert Julian of Utica, said his client would appeal the commission’s determination. Hedges released a statement through his lawyer saying he was “devastated” by the decision.

“The allegations are untrue,” he said. “The administrative process is deficient in terms of being a fair fact-finding procedure. I hope the Court of Appeals will reverse.”

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