Judge Faces Discipline For Road Rage With Gun
PITTSBURGH (AP) – A district judge faces disciplinary charges stemming from accusations that he brandished a gun while driving and talked tough about juvenile crime and graffiti in news stories, which would violate a conduct code for judges.
The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board announced seven charges Friday against Erie District Judge Thomas Carney, who took office in January 2006. Carney didn’t immediately return a message left with his secretary.
The state Court of Judicial Discipline will hear the charges and can discipline Carney if he’s convicted, up to removing him from office.
Last year, state police say Carney made an obscene gesture with his hand toward another driver and held a gun out his car window, though he did not aim it at the driver. Carney pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct.
Carney is also accused of violating a conduct rule that calls for judges to refrain from commenting publicly about ongoing court proceedings.
Erie television and newspaper reporters quoted Carney several times about cases involving juvenile offenders. One example the board cited came after Carney set a $50,000 cash bond for a woman who was jailed on charges of conspiring with her 16-year-old son to commit robbery in 2007. The woman was unable to post the bond and her son was also incarcerated, in a juvenile facility.
“There have been a lot of robberies lately and we want to send a message that this will not be tolerated,’’ Carney was quoted as saying in an Erie Times-News story the next day.
The judge also joined an anti-graffiti task force and talked of setting up a reward fund, and giving his office phone number to be used to receive donations.
The seven counts against Carney include allegations that he brought the office into disrepute and violated rules that promote the public’s confidence in the integrity of judiciary, prevent judges from showing bias and bar them from soliciting funds for outside organizations – an apparent reference to the graffiti task force.
Carney is alleged to have brought the office into disrepute through charges that state police filed after pulling over Carney on Interstate 79 on Jan. 9, 2009, when he was returning to Erie from a Pittsburgh Steelers game.
Carney had pulled up behind another car in the left passing lane and flashed his high beams. The car stayed in the left lane, so Carney passed on the right and obscenely gestured toward the other driver, according to the Judicial Conduct Board complaint.
The other motorist flicked his lights at Carney, who slowed down until the cars were side by side. Carney again gestured at the driver, who gestured back, the complaint said. Then Carney pulled a “.380-caliber handgun out of his center console, rolled down the car window, extended his arm out the window and displayed it to (the other motorist). He did not point it at (the other motorist).’’
State police charged Carney with terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment, which a judge dismissed after a hearing. State police refiled the charges, and Carney pleaded guilty only to two counts of disorderly conduct and paid fines and court costs of $541.