Attorney Ed Fiandach almost fired from Judge Leticia Astacio case

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Judge Astacio declined an offer to plead guilty. She will remain in the Monroe County Jail without bail until a scheduled hearing Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (June 5, 2017) Tina MacIntyre-Yee Max Schulte

Around the time she was being served her first breakfast behind bars, Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio made news Tuesday when her lawyer announced that he had been fired.

By dinner time, her lawyer, Ed Fiandach, was back on the case.

Fiandach said early in the day that he was dismissed via a text message from Astacio’s sister late Monday night and that he learned of the development when he looked at his phone Tuesday morning.

But Fiandach confirmed late Tuesday that he would remain Astacio’s counsel and said the embattled judge told him during a jailhouse meeting that her sister had fired him without her permission.

“She said her family was upset that she was in jail and said, ‘My sister was acting without my authority,’ ” Fiandach said.

News that Fiandach would keep the job was first reported by WROC-TV News 8.

Firing an attorney in a criminal matter is not as simple an undertaking as sending a text message. The task requires the defendant, in this case Astacio, to sign a form requesting a change of counsel and that the form be approved by the presiding judge.

More: Judge Leticia Astacio goes to jail

Editorial: Astacio case shows need to reform how New York disciplines judges

None of that happened in this case, but that did not stop Fiandach from telling reporters throughout the day that he had been fired. He expressed disappointment over the development and said he shared a “personal connection” with Astacio.

Fiandach, a high-profile lawyer who specializes in DWI defense, recalled once trying a case in front of Astacio and her calling him to the bench to tell him, “I’m only here because of you.”

He said she went on to explain that a lecture he gave years earlier to her class at Irondequoit High School, when she was a student there, inspired her to become a lawyer.

“I really liked her,” Fiandach said. “I’ve been in this long enough to know that anybody on any given night can get a DWI. I worried about her losing her job.”

Astacio, who is being held in jail without bail, was initially slated to return to court Thursday for a hearing on a charge that she violated a condition of her sentence in her drunken driving case by failing to take a urine test for alcohol in her system.

She is now expected to appear in court Wednesday morning for a bail request hearing.

No written application for bail had been filed as of late Tuesday, but Ontario County Judge William Kocher, who was appointed to rule on any such application, is slated to hold court in Rochester at 9:30 a.m. and Fiandach said he would make an oral argument for Astacio to be released on bail.

The relationship between Astacio and Fiandach has been the source of much public speculation throughout her legal drama, as she continuously pushed the boundaries of the justice system and he invariably offered a spirited defense.

More: Judge Astacio will return to ‘work’ after serving time

More: Leticia Astacio joins small list of New York judges who have been jailed

The speculation rose to a fevered pitch in recent days, as Astacio’s behavior grew more erratic and Fiandach posted on his Facebook page what were perceived by commenters to be thinly veiled musings on developments in her case.

Last week, on the same day a bench warrant was issued for Astacio’s arrest for her failing to appear in court and her claim to be living in a monastery in Thailand became public, Fiandach wrote on Facebook: “…Um, I had an, uh, interesting day.”

Asked recently by a reporter whether he would consider dropping her case, Fiandach replied the ethics of his profession forbade him from doing so.

The juxtaposition between client and lawyer was perhaps never more evident throughout the case than Monday, when Astacio was arrested and marched out of the courthouse in handcuffs with Fiandach by her side.

Astacio beamed for the cameras and giggled audibly when she was escorted into the elevator away from the media circus. Throughout it all, Fiandach wore a dour look that seemed to say, “Not again.”

That night, he wrote on Facebook: “… another rough day.”

 

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