A Washington County judge has been ordered to be suspended after spreading around a story of him whipping out a handgun at a Black defendant in the courtroom, according to CBS 6 Albany. The Chief Justice of the New York State Court of Appeals and New York Commission on Judicial Conduct both called for his removal from office.
The Commission already voted on the removal of Whitehall Town Court Judge Robert J. Putorti once his mess was made public. Though, if the appeals court upholds the Commission’s decision, he could be barred from serving as a judge in the state. He’s due back in court, not as a judge but as a defendant, on Nov. 14.
In 2015, Putorti was presiding over a case in which the defendant confessed to attacking his wife and another man with a knife. The report says Putorti agreed to a plea to help the man avoid a felony and told him to stay out of trouble for a year. However, during a following court appearance, the man walked up “too quickly” to the front of the judge’s bench. Putorti then drew his handgun on the man, says the press release.
Later the judge admitted he had no reason to believe the man was going to harm him and claims he asked a supervising judge on how to handle courtroom security. Yet he went and boasted about the incident to everybody and “they mama,” as we’d say. That’s when he got himself in trouble.
More about the judge from Syracuse.com:
Putorti got in trouble after he told others of the time he had pulled a gun after fearing for his life at the hands of “a large Black man.” The judge, who is white, exaggerated the man’s stature, described him as 6-foot, 9-inches tall and built like a football player. In fact, the man was 6 feet tall and 165 pounds, the commission found.
Putorti later told his cousin, a college journalism student, about the incident. And later, he described it to colleagues at a judge’s conference in 2018. The subsequent investigation led to this week’s action by the judicial conduct commission.
All but one of the commission’s 11 members voted to recommend that Putorti be removed from office for an incident that had the appearances of racial bias — Putorti had repeatedly described the man as Black and exaggerated his size and strength in explaining why he pulled the gun — as well as a profound lack of recognition that what he did was wrong.
This judge pulled the oldest, most stereotypically racist line in the book, exaggerating the appearance of a Black man to justify fearing for his life. What is this? The 1800s when Black people were described like supervillains and animals?
“But for the fact that it happened in this case, it would otherwise be unfathomable for a judge to brandish a weapon in court, without provocation or justification. To then brag about it repeatedly with irrelevant racial remarks is utterly indefensible and inimical to the role of a judge,” commission administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said in the press release.
The courtroom is arguably one of the most dangerous places for a Black man. Their lives are literally in the hands of the jury and the judge who more often than not, send an innocent Black person to prison. Considering the defendant in this case admitted to the crime, every defendant is still entitled to impartiality.