GREENBELT, Md. (CN) – A former Maryland circuit court judge accused of ordering an unwarranted “stun-cuff” electric shock of a pro se criminal defendant pleaded guilty this week.
Robert Nalley served as a judge in Charles County, Md., for 26 years. He pleaded guilty in Maryland Federal Court on Monday to one count of the deprivation of rights under color of law, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
According to Nalley’s plea agreement, he was presiding over jury selection in July 2014 in a trial for the victim, who was representing himself and wearing electro-shock “stun cuffs,” when the criminal defendant ignored Nalley’s request regarding questions for potential jurors.
Instead, the man began reading a prepared statement “objecting to Judge Nalley’s authority to preside over the proceedings, while standing calmly behind a table in the courtroom,” the plea agreement states.
Nalley then ordered a deputy sheriff to activate the stun cuff, which administered an electric shock to the victim for about five seconds, prosecutors said.
The electric shock caused the pro se defendant “to fall to the ground and scream in pain,” according to the 8-page plea agreement. Judge Nalley recessed the proceedings.
Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement that judges should “serve as the guardians and arbitrators of justice.”
“When government officials – including judges – violate the rights we entrust them to defend and break the laws we expect them to uphold, they undermine the legitimacy of our justice system,” Gupta said.
Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said that “force may not be used in the absence of danger” in cases of disruptive courtroom defendants.
Nalley’s charge carried a maximum sentence of one year of incarceration, one year of supervised release and a fine of $100,000, but prosecutors will recommend a sentence of one year of probation, according to the plea agreement.
The former judge is scheduled to be sentenced on March 31.
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