Removal or retirement is recommended for judge accused of groping worker

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A hearing officer is recommending removal or retirement for a Massachusetts judge accused of groping a court employee at a bar after a judicial education conference.

The hearing officer concluded in an Aug. 17 report that Judge Paul M. Sushchyk of Worcester, Massachusetts, gave false statements during the investigation and engaged in misconduct by touching the woman without consent at a court-sponsored event.

“The line crossed here is not a murky one,” said the report by the hearing officer, Bertha D. Josephson. “The touching engaged in here was offensive and an affront to one’s bodily integrity and dignity.”

The conference happened in April 2019 at Ocean’s Edge Resort in Brewster, Massachusetts. Sushchyk brought a flask of whiskey to a social hour after the conference, the dinner that followed and a pub after the dinner.

The court worker was seated at a stool when she “felt the distinct sensation of a hand grabbing the left side of her buttocks and applying a full-handed squeeze to it,” the hearing officer’s report said. “The contact lasted several seconds. Stunned, [the worker] froze in place, making no move to acknowledge the affront or the culprit. She was aware at that moment that Judge Sushchyk was the only one passing behind her.”

The worker got up to leave about 15 minutes later, trying to signal to a companion with her eyes that something had happened. She texted what had happened to her sister that evening and to a friend the next day.

After considering what she should do over the next few days, the worker reported the incident. When the chief justice handed Sushchyk the written complaint, Sushchyk said he “couldn’t have done something like that,” the report says. He also reported having two drinks over the evening, without mentioning the flask of whiskey.

In a written statement to the chief justice, Sushchyk said he “was somewhat unsteady on [his] feet, feeling the effects of past hip replacement surgery, the long day, the evening meal and the alcohol consumed.”

He said after returning from the restroom, he passed the worker and placed his hand in the direction of her chair, reached out to steady himself, and “came into momentary contact with a portion of her lower body.”

The story changed when Sushchyk testified under oath, the report said. Sushchyk denied any physical contact with the worker at all. Because he didn’t think the worker would lie, Sushchyk said, he had concocted a scenario in the written statement to rationalize what she said.

The hearing officer said the court worker “gave a cogent, credible, consistent account of what occurred,” while “Judge Sushchyk has not been honest in his accounts.”

“One problem with lying is once it begins, it’s hard to know when it ends,” the hearing officer wrote. “Judge Sushchyk’s lack of candor at the inception of this matter undermines his credibility at hearing. His initial response suggests that he did what he was accused of doing and sought to minimize his culpability for it. I do not find Judge Sushchyk’s testimonial denials of intentional contact with [the worker] reliable or believable.”

Sushchyk, a judge on the probate and family court, was appointed to the bench in February 2018.

WCVB had coverage of the hearing officer’s recommendation.

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