Judge Robert J. Putorti was removed from office after pointing a loaded handgun at a Black man during a 2015 court hearing.
The New York State Court of Appeals made the decision on Oct. 19, the Associated Press reports.
Putorti was a judge for Village Court and Whitehall Town in New York. The New York State Court of Appeals said Putori tried to justify pulling a gun on the man because the Black defendant allegedly approached the stand too quickly, crossing a designated stop line inside the courtroom.
“He repeatedly emphasized the race and stature of the litigant when recounting the episode, sometimes boastfully, according to an independent review by the New York State Court of Appeals,” the AP reported.
Putori described the defendant as “6 feet 9 inches tall (206 cm) and built like a football player” when he was only 6 feet and 165 pounds. The appellate court ruled that the Commission on Judicial Conduct acted appropriately by removing Putorti from the bench because he “exploited a classic and common racist trope that Black men are inherently threatening or dangerous, exhibiting bias or, at least, implicit bias.”
Robert H. Tembeckjian, administrator for the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct, said in a statement, “It is indefensible and inimical to the role of a judge to brandish a loaded weapon in court, without provocation or justification, then brag about it repeatedly with irrelevant racial remarks. The Court’s ruling today makes clear that there is no place on the bench for one who behaves this way.”
Putorti’s questionable fundraising methods didn’t help his cause. He reportedly participated in prohibited fundraising events that benefitted another office position at Elks Lodge while he was under investigation for the gun-wielding incident.
The New York State Court of Appeals ruled Putorti repeatedly showed “an unwillingness or inability to abide by the Rules of Judicial Conduct.”
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