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03-23-08, 05:30 PM #1
Former Municipal Court judge charged with 7 counts of judicial misconduct and disorderly conduct
Former Municipal Court judge Richard Sasso has been charged with seven counts of judicial misconduct, including being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while on the bench and disorderly conduct at Torpedo's Go-Go Bar in Bound Brook.
The charges were filed in a formal complaint on March 13 by the state Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, but were not publicly released until Monday.
Sasso resigned as municipal court judge in Bridgewater, Warren, Bound Brook and Watchung on Jan. 23. Sasso cited health reasons for the resignation.
The complaint alleges that Sasso presided over court sessions on Dec. 6, 2006, in Bridgewater and April 17, 2007, in Warren under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
In both cases, Sasso needed to be driven home, the complaint states.
The complaint also charges that the Dec. 6, 2006, court session in Bound Brook had to be canceled because of Sasso's "impaired condition."
In the second count of the complaint, the Bound Brook police were called at about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 29, 2007, on a disorderly persons complaint involving Sasso at Torpedo's Go-Go Bar on East Main Street.
According to the complaint, Sasso refused to supply the bartender with his driver's license, which the bartender was required to examine before starting a tab.
Sasso then became hostile and said to the bartender, "Do you know who I am? I'm the Bound Brook judge," according to the complaint.
Sasso then told the bartender that as judge he had left the bar alone for three years. When Sasso was then asked to leave, Sasso allegedly threatened the manager, saying "Do you know who I am? I can make problems for you," according to the complaint.
At that point, the manager asked employees to call the Bound Brook police to remove Sasso from the establishment. While being removed from the bar, Sasso ripped off a part of the bar's ledge, the complaint alleges.
The complaint further alleges that Sasso lowered the amount of fines to be imposed on high school students appearing in his courts "merely because of their status as high school students."
Sasso referred to these discounts in open court as the "Warrior Discount" for students of Watchung Hills Regional High School or other applicable high school mascot discounts, a reference to the mascot of the school the student was attending. Sasso conditioned the discount on the student's promise to pay the fine without the financial assistance of a third party.
The complaint called the practice "discriminatory conduct that impugns the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
The complaint further alleges that Sasso violated state rules by serving as attorney for the Watchung Volunteer Fire Company while also serving as Watchung municipal court judge.
The rule prohibits municipal court judges from acting as the attorney for the municipality or any agency of the municipality.
In addition, the complaint also alleges that Sasso repeatedly misused a rule by sanctioning attorneys and litigants "unfairly" for being late to court.
On July 12, 2007, the complaint states, Sasso was presiding over a Watchung Municipal Court case involving Lisa Brown. Brown was approximately eight minutes late to court and consequently was not present when her case was initially called. When Brown failed to answer the call, Sasso immediately ordered a bench warrant for her arrest.
When Brown then told Sasso she was present, Sasso became "very upset and began yelling" at Brown, eventually fining her $500 for contempt of court and saying if she didn't pay the fine, she would be placed in the Somerset County Jail for one day for every $35 of the penality, according to the complaint.
In another incident, Sasso fined a defense attorney, Patricia Bombelyn, $500 for contempt of court in Bound Brook on Aug. 8, 2007. The complaint alleges Sasso interrogated her "in a hostile tone" and "increasingly belligerent" manner.
That fine and contempt charge was later dismissed on appeal in Superior Court.
In another incident, on May 9, 2006, Sasso presided over a case in Warren Municipal Court involving Tina Sears.
When the case was over, Sasso directed the court officer to detain Sears as she was leaving because she allegedly cursed at him, a charge she denied.
Sasso held Sears in contempt of court and sentenced her to immediate incarceration in Somerset County Jail for 10 days.
That was an "abuse" of his contempt powers, the complaint states.
The complaint charges that Sasso's behavior violated the state's Code of Judicial Conduct which requires judges to be "patient, dignified and courteous." The state Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, composed of private citizens appointed by the Supreme Court, reviews allegations of judicial misconduct.
The committee deals only with questions of conduct, not with the correctness of judicial decisions.
Sanctions can range from a reprimand, censure and suspension without pay to removal from judicial office.
03-23-08, 06:24 PM #2
Sounds like he needed to go!YEAH, IM THE BERRIES, AND CHERRIES IN YOUR REAR VIEW MIRROR.
Handle every stressful situation like a dog.
Eat it, Play with it, or piss on it, and walk away!
As smart as man is, we haven't been able to invent a machine that can smell drugs or tell us where a person has walked,” Dogs are sophisticated investigative tools!
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