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Antwerp judge censured by state commission

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ANTWERP — A town justice has been censured by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for presiding over a case in which his co-justice was the complaining witness and the other justice’s son was the defendant.

Justice Karl I. Ridsdale was sanctioned for hearing a March 2009 case involving Justice Donald F. Hull, whose son, Tyrone, had been charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief for allegedly punching a hole in a wall during a domestic incident at the family’s residence.

According to the commission’s finding released Monday, Mr. Ridsdale arraigned Tyrone Hull on March 12, 2009, even though he knew the 20-year-old was his co-justice’s son and knew that Donald Hull was the person who had made the complaint leading to the arrest. Mr. Ridsdale then accepted Tyrone Hull’s waiver of his right to counsel, accepted a guilty plea to criminal mischief and sentenced him to 30 days in the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building, Watertown.

The plea was taken during “an evening off-hours arraignment” with no prosecutor or defense attorney present, the commission said.

The commission said there was no indication that Tyrone Hull, whose mental state prompted Mr. Ridsdale to order a mental exam, appreciated the importance of consulting with counsel regarding the consequences of pleading guilty to a crime and being sentenced to jail. The commission said Mr. Ridsdale’s misconduct was compounded by his failure to keep a record of the proceedings, as mandated by a 2008 order by the state’s chief administrative judge.

“The absence of a recording of the arraignment makes it more difficult to determine precisely what transpired at the proceeding,” the commission wrote.

According to the commission’s determination, Mr. Ridsdale cooperated with its inquiry, regretted not knowing the applicable conflict rules and vowed to follow the disqualification rules in the future. Mr. Ridsdale, who has been a justice since 2006, and the commission entered into an “agreed statement of facts” on the matter.

When the commission conducts an inquiry, its determination can result in an admonition, a censure or a removal of a judge or justice, or impose no sanction.

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