LONSBERRY: Astacio's Judicial Days Are Numbered

This is where it falls apart for Leticia Astacio.

She can play it out, but the end is near certain.

Her days as a judge are numbered.

It started almost two years ago when she, on the way to Saturday-morning arraignments, crashed her car and was charged with misdemeanor drunk driving.

That’s embarrassing.

But it’s not a career ender. 

A variety of public officials from the Rochester region have gotten DWIs over the years. And they all have come through ultimately unscathed. Sure, they’ve been bumped around a while in the court of public opinion, but they took their medicine, they paid their fine, and they went forward.

And that’s what Leticia Astacio should have done.

But she didn’t. 

Instead of being contrite and trying to fix things, she did just the opposite and went on an odyssey of self-destruction that has dominated the evening news and now, at long last, come to something of a conclusion.

Monday night of last week, after a bad day in the press, she went out to buy a gun. 

Aside from the obvious concerns about violence or suicide, that’s pretty problematic for someone on probation. Especially her probation. It specifically barred her from possessing a firearm. 

She must have known that.

She had the paperwork. She is an attorney and a judge. The specific contents of her probation paperwork had come up in court before, and she had been shown that her professed ignorance to what the single sheet of paper said was not a legal defense. 

Her probation decree banned possession of firearms. New York law declares the attempt to possess a firearm by someone legally prohibited from possessing a firearm a felony. 

And so as she walked into Dick’s Sporting Goods and attempted to buy a gun, she was committing a felony.

Not just another probation violation. Not just another middle finger in the face of the criminal justice system overseeing her case. A felony.

That’s why she was picked up yesterday not by probation officers, but by sheriff’s deputies. The initial investigation of her attempted purchase – prompted by a 9-1-1 call from gun-store clerks – resulted in a deputies’ notes being handed over to probation. But some behind-the-scenes research showed there was something bigger here – a felony.

And felonies come with strings attached.

Which gets us to the point.

If convicted of attempting to possess a firearm, Leticia Astacio will be automatically stripped of her judicial office and her privilege to practice law. Being a convicted felon means under law that you can’t be a judge and are automatically removed from office. The same is true of one’s admission to the bar. It is automatically stripped.

Leticia Astacio has just done what the Judicial Conduct Commission didn’t have the balls to do.

And with her self-destruction looming on the horizon, it is likely that the commission will continue to hang low, avoiding the uncomfortable chore of removing a black female from the bench.

Conviction, of course, is not automatic.

But resignation might be the price of avoiding it.

It would be well within normal prosecution practice for a district attorney to, in a case like this, accept a plea to something less than a felony in exchange for a public official’s resignation from office. 

There is no way of knowing what plea arrangements could potentially be reached in the case of Leticia Astacio, But it is quite possible that a defendant in her position could be offered a misdemeanor – preserving herlaw license and ability to make a living – in exchange for her resignation from the Rochester City Court bench.

In fact, given her situation, Leticia Astacio should probably consider herself lucky to be offered such a deal.

Either way, two things are certain: Leticia Astacio is going to pay a defense lawyer a lot of money, and her days as a judge are numbered.

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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