Astacio sat silently in the front row of the audience as attorney Robert Julian made his final plea to save her $187,200-a-year job during a 21-minute hearing in front of the Court of Appeals in Albany, which will ultimately determine whether the city judge will remain on the bench.
Julian was peppered with questions from the court’s seven judges about whether Astacio has shown enough contrition for the actions that led the state Commission on Judicial Conduct to recommend removing her from her position, most notably a 2016 drunken driving conviction and two subsequent violations of the terms of her sentence.
“We argue that Judge Astacio should not be removed from the bench,” Julian said. “She is remorseful.”
Facts of the case
The main facts of Astacio’s case are not in dispute.
She was sentenced to a conditional discharge in August 2016 and ordered not to use alcohol for a year. An ignition interlock device was installed on her car.
In October of that year, she violated the terms of her sentence by trying to start her car after drinking. The next month, she was stripped of her judicial duties and hasn’t heard a case since.
In May 2017, she was ordered to submit a urine test after her ignition interlock system again detected alcohol. She failed to appear at a court hearing, with her attorney at the time revealing that she was in Thailand and wasn’t due to return until August.
What was in dispute Wednesday, however, was whether Astacio had shown appropriate contrition for her actions and whether the public has lost confidence in her ability to do her job.
“She apologized to the commission nine times,” Julian told the court.
Edward Lindner, an attorney for the Commission on Judicial Conduct, argued that Astacio had repeatedly tried to pass blame on to others.
When she apologized for being hostile with State Police during her arrest, she claimed the troopers provoked her, Lindner said. In the most recent court filings, Astacio claimed her aunt was going to drive in October 2016, not her.
In April, the commission recommended Astacio’s removal from the bench.
Judge Leslie Stein asked Lindner whether the fact that Astacio’s case has drawn considerable attention from the news media should make a difference when weighing whether the public still has confidence in Astacio.
“When a judge commits crimes that are newsworthy, it affects the public confidence,” Lindner said.
Julian argued that court precedent says Astacio should be censured rather than removed entirely.
That punishment would allow her to keep her judgeship through the rest of her term; she was elected to a 10-year term in 2014.
Judge Eugene Fahey honed in on whether it would have made a difference with the public if Astacio had admitted to alcoholism and participated in an Alcoholics Anonymous program.
He asked Lindner if it would have convinced the Commission on Judicial Conduct to ease its recommended punishment.
“I think that this may be a case that even if there had been contrition, it may not be enough,” Lindner said.
Julian told the court Astacio has a “mild alcohol abuse disorder,” but declined to call it alcoholism.
“Ultimately, the diagnosis of alcoholism is a diagnosis made by health care professionals and medical people,” Julian told reporters after the hearing.
GLENDALE — A Los Angeles police sergeant is set to be arraigned Wednesday on DUI charges stemming from his April 27 arrest in Glendale, along with an LAPD commander charged with public intoxication involving the same incident.
Sgt. James Kelly, now 47, was charged last Friday with one misdemeanor count each of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, along with an allegation that his blood alcohol concentration was 0.20 percent or more.
LAPD Cmdr. Nicole Mehringer, 47, is charged with one misdemeanor count of public intoxication. She is also set to be arraigned Wednesday at the Glendale courthouse.
The two — who were both assigned to the LAPD’s Employee Relations Group — were arrested early April 27 by Glendale police near Lomita Avenue and Brand Boulevard. They were released from custody later that morning.
“Both have been relieved of duty without pay pending disciplinary action,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement released shortly after the charges were announced.
Then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck previously released a statement in which he said he had “been briefed on the circumstances of these arrests and am extremely concerned about the allegations.” He said then that the LAPD had initiated personnel investigations that “can result in serious consequences.”
McCoy: He’s dead, Jim
During his high-profile run for Senate against Ted Cruz, Democrat Beto O’Rourke has not shied away from discussing a troubling element of his past: an arrest for drunk driving in September 1998, the day after he turned 26.
But a new story in the Houston Chronicle claims that there’s an important part of the story that the Texas Congressman hasn’t addressed. According to records acquired by the paper, O’Rourke was not only nabbed for driving under the influence; he caused what could have been a catastrophic accident, then tried to flee the scene. Neither detail had previously been made available to the public. The Chronicle reports:
“State and local police reports obtained by the Chronicle and Express-News show that O’Rourke was driving drunk at what a witness called “a high rate of speed” in a 75 mph zone on Interstate 10 about a mile from the New Mexico border. He lost control and hit a truck, sending his car careening across the center median into oncoming lanes. The witness, who stopped at the scene, later told police that O’Rourke had tried to drive away from the scene.”
The 1995 records, obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety, are based in large part on the testimony of a witness who reported seeing O’Rourke’s vehicle speed by him at 3 a.m. on September 27, 1998. After the accident, the same witness helped prevent O’Rourke from leaving the aftermath of the accident. There were no injuries at the scene; criminal charges were dismissed.
As the Chronicle notes, O’Rourke once told the El-Paso Times that he had been driving an intoxicated friend home, but no friend was mentioned in the police report.
In a statement issued on Thursday, O’Rourke repeated what he has said before: that he regrets the incident.
“I drove drunk and was arrested for a DWI in 1998,” O’Rourke said. “As I’ve publicly discussed over the last 20 years, I made a serious mistake for which there is no excuse.” The “serious mistake” wording was identical to the formulation he used in a Chronicle op-ed he wrote earlier this week. The piece addressed his past mistakes, which also include an arrest for jumping a fence in 1995, through the lens of criminal-justice reform.
Texas Republicans have already slammed O’Rourke for the drunk-driving incident, most recently in a tweet earlier this week, which took him to task for skipping a debate with Cruz. (In the same thread, the GOP also went after O’Rourke for having a social life in the early 1990s, a tactic that backfired.)
But it remains to be seen how potent an attack line the new revelation could be for Cruz’s campaign.
It’s true that drunk-driving offenses are nothing new for Texas voters — former governor George W. Bush once pleaded to driving under the influence, an incident that came out in the press just before he won the presidency in 2000, and did not seem to hurt his standing in the eyes of Texans. But O’Rourke came closer to causing death and destruction than Bush. Rourke has also positioned himself as a forthright chronicler of his own imperfect past, and the fact that he left out a key part of it may hurt his reputation for candor.
So far, the Cruz campaign has not commented on the Chronicle report.
The charismatic O’Rourke has embraced a strategy of staying true to his liberal bona fides and activating a wide swath of previously apathetic voters, as he crisscrosses the state, raising eye-popping fundraising totalsexclusively from small donors. Recent polls show Cruz clinging to a single-digit lead in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. The race has become so competitive that Cruz has resorted to asking his ex-adversary President Trump — who, during the 2016 campaign insinuated that Cruz’s father had a hand in killing John F. Kennedy and has attacked Cruz’s wife’s looks — for help. On Friday, the president confirmed that he would step in.
Cruz is not likely to stay quiet about O’Rourke’s omissions. But if there’s anyone willing to really exploit a personal flaw, it’s our president.
Arizona Wildcats sophomore forward Ira Lee was cited for driving under the influence in the early morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 19, according to a University of Arizona statement.
Lee, who averaged 2.4 points per game in 27 appearances as a freshman last year, may face repercussions from the school and team, depending on the course of a review by academic staff.
“The incident has been referred to the Dean of Students for review under the University’s student code of conduct, and the Athletics Department is reviewing the incident for team consequences,” the UA statement reads. “Students also have access to counseling and other support services.”
According to Pima County Consolidated Justice Court records, Lee was cited for Failure to Yield, Minor Driving After Drinking and DUI Extreme BAC .20 or More at the intersection of 6th Street and Warren Avenue.
Lee is scheduled for a criminal arraignment hearing on Sept. 10, according to the court’s report.
The University’s athletics department would not release any additional information regarding Lee’s citation.
The Wildcats open the 2018-19 regular season with their Red-Blue intra-squad game on Oct. 14, with their first game on Wednesday, Nov. 7 against Houston Baptist.
McCoy: Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor, not an ornithologist!
BRATTLEBORO — What sort of testimony might be allowed during the trial of a 26-year-old man accused of causing the death of his fiance during a ride on a utility vehicle was the subject of discussion in Windham Superior Court on Monday morning.
Andrew Ielpi is facing charges of grossly negligent vehicle operation resulting in death and manslaughter in the May 22, 2016, death of Angelique Frost, who was 23 at the time of her death.
According to court documents, Ielpi was driving a six-wheeled utility vehicle when, at the urging of Frost “to go get some air” over a culvert in a privately owned road in Westminster, he lost control and crashed, throwing Frost off the vehicle and into a tree. Ielpi and his parents transported Frost’s body to an urgent care facility in Bellows Falls only to find the clinic closed. They then drove to the Bellows Falls Police Department, where Frost was declared dead.
Neither Ielpi nor his parents called 911 or sought emergency assistance for Frost before transporting her to Bellows Falls.
Ielpi’s defense attorney, David Sleigh, told Windham Superior Court Judge John Treadwell that the prosecution’s attempt to introduce testimony about what happened after the accident “was not germane or relevant in determining whether Andrew operated the vehicle in a grossly manner …”
Sleigh said introducing testimony on what happened after the accident was just “a distraction and an attempt to cast Andrew in a bad light in a way that would shift the focus of the jury from determining whether the operation of the vehicle was grossly negligent … It really doesn’t establish anything as to the essential elements. It doesn’t add anything to the jury’s analysis of whether the operation was negligent.”
The state’s attempt is to shift the jury’s analysis away from the question of whether the operation of the vehicle was grossly negligent to whether Ielpi “is a bad guy,” contested Sleigh, and allowing the state to introduce evidence to impugn his client’s character wasn’t admissible.
But Winhdam County Deputy State’s Attorney David Gartenstein argued that the testimony of what happened after the accident, including moving Frost’s body and not calling 911 and the discussions between him, his mother and his step-father during that process, was evidence of negligent conduct that the jury should have an opportunity to consider.
“To cut out part of that evidence and to say that magically the body appeared at the police station … that just does not do justice to the facts of the case as a whole,” he said, adding leaving it out would call into question the integrity and completeness of the investigation.
Gartenstein acknowledged that the medical examiner would testify that Frost’s death “was a natural consequence of her body impacting the tree,” but by moving her body, Ielpi had denied the state the opportunity to fully examine the crash scene with her body present.
“The evidence includes explanations of the time gap between when the crash occurred and when the defendant and his family members and the decedent arrived at the police station,” argued Gartenstein.
The decision to move Frost’s body also demonstrates Ielpi’s impulsive judgment that led to the accident and whether he was operating the vehicle “in a reasonable prudent manner,” the basis of the negligent operation charge, argued Gartenstein. “It’s for the jury to decide what was his state of mind and to what extent his judgment was impaired … He doesn’t call police and he doesn’t call 911. He gets in the car, he calls his mom and drives back, loads the body in the vehicle … those issues go to define standard of care as a whole.”
Gartenstein also reassured the judge that he wouldn’t offer character evidence against Ielpi, even though there is “a lengthy history” between Ielpi and the Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office, he said.
Treadwell said he would issue a written decision in response to the court arguments. He also has to rule on whether toxicology should be admitted about marijuana consumption prior to crash. Ielpie’s criminal trial was originally scheduled for September, but due to a miscommunication between the defense and the state, was postponed to early next year. A report on the structural integrity of the utility vehicle commissioned by the defense was not received by prosecutors until recently, said Gartenstein.
“What we want and what [Frost’s] mom wants is a fair adjudication of the merits of what happened,” said Gartenstein, which will require a review of the report and perhaps the state’s own analysis of the vehicle.
Judge Treadwell, who characterized the miscommunication as a “wholly inadvertent error,” said he would reschedule the trial.
Ielpi, his mother and step-father and others are named in a civil suit filed by Frost’s mother, Rebecca Kemp, of Putney, who is seeking in excess of $3 million in the death of her daughter.
Ielpi’s biological father, Jonathan Ielpi, was 29 and a New York City firefighter who died when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund distributed awards to 2,880 of the 2,963 death claims filed. The average award was $2,082,128 and went as high as $7.1 million.