An upstate judge who encouraged sheriff’s deputies to “shoot” an unruly defendant in her courtroom, then cursed out troopers who arrested her for drunk driving — on her way to work — and after that took a vacation to Thailand instead of attending a hearing on the DWI arrest is finally being recommended for removal from the bench.
Suspended Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio will continue to collect her $187,00-a-year salary until the state’s Court of Appeals rules on her ouster. That could be as late as the fall. But she was less eager to return to court for a follow up hearing on the drunk driving arrest. In May 2017 she jetted off to Thailand instead of attending the hearing over contempt charges for trying to drive her vehicle while intoxicated after her DWI arrest.
Astacio’s troubles started the same month she first took the bench in January 2015, when she refused to recuse herself from the arraignment of a former client, then let an accused thief off with a $50 bail as a “courtesy,” according to a ruling from the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.
“I totally love him. I’m so sad that he’s in jail right now,” she said in open court at the time.
Later that month the judge told sheriff’s deputies — “tase her,” “shoot her,” and “well, punch her in the face and bring her out here” — when she heard that a young female defendant was biting and spitting on people on her way to court.
By August 2015 the judge still hadn’t learned how to behave on the bench, the ruling says. She joked that a sexual assault victim had a “case of buyer’s remorse” because the victim was hesitant to sign a statement against her attacker. When a prosecutor didn’t laugh at the crude remark the judge said, “I don’t mean to be inappropriate. I thought that was freakin’ hilarious.”
Off the bench Astacio was nabbed for drunk driving Feb. 13, 2016 when a state trooper tried to give her a Breathalyzer on her way to work.
It was 7:54 a.m.
She told the trooper to “mind his own f—ing business” before blowing a .19. The legal limit is .08.
While locked up for the infraction she tried to use her position as a judge to get out, pleading, “I have court right now.”
Astacio, 36, admitted that she’d “engaged in some misconduct” but claimed that her ouster “was too harsh.”
The judicial conduct commissioners disagreed.
“The totality of respondent’s misbehavior as shown in the record before us demonstrates her unfitness for judicial office,” they said in a ruling released Tuesday,
Astacio’s attorney, Robert F. Julian, said, “I will be reviewing the decision with my client and she will make a decision regarding an appeal shortly.”