SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington state Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished a King County District Court judge for implying in court that a defendant would be raped in prison if he didn’t change his behavior.
The Seattle Times reports Judge Virginia Amato, who was elected in November 2018, presided over the arraignment of a man charged with misdemeanor domestic-violence assault and resisting arrest last August, according to the stipulation, agreement and order of admonishment signed June 24 by the commission’s executive director, J. Reiko Callner.
Before imposing conditions of release, Amato noted the man’s alleged crimes happened while he was on probation, the order says.
The man had no felony convictions, and could not be sent to prison for misdemeanors, yet Amato is quoted in the order as telling him he was setting himself up “to be Bubba’s new best girlfriend at the state penitentiary.”
“That may hopefully give you a graphic image to think about … And if you think I’m kidding, I’m not,” she reportedly said.
A confidential complaint was filed in October with the commission, which is responsible for reviewing and acting on complaints of judicial misconduct, and Amato was served with a statement of allegations in December, the order says.
Amato acknowledged that her statements to the defendant violated the Code of Judicial Conduct but said her comments, “while insensitive and thoughtless, were not motivated by bias or ill-will toward the defendant.”
The commission found that Amato violated rules requiring judges to uphold the integrity of the judiciary by avoiding impropriety or the appearance of impropriety and to maintain appropriate courtroom decorum.
The commission found it was an isolated event that was out of character. An admonishment is the least severe disciplinary action the commission can issue and is meant as a caution to a judge not to engage in certain proscribed behavior.