ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CN) – A small-town judge who lied about being attacked by an assailant wielding a toilet-tank lid to score prescription-pain medication was rightfully convicted, New York state’s Appellate Division found.
Roger Barto, a 55-year-old former acting village justice in Waterloo, N.Y., claimed that in August 2013 he was attacked by an unknown assailant while locking up the village courthouse following an evening arraignment.
According to Barto, the assailant attempted to strangle him before the judge was able to break free.
Barto claimed he was then struck by the man with a porcelain toilet tank lid, which shattered all around him, before falling unconscious. After coming to, Barto called the police, who found the broken lid at the scene of the alleged attack.
Barto was taken to the hospital, where he complained of pain despite his having no visible injuries. Multiple CAT scans, MRIs, and X-rays showed no injury, according to court documents.
After being released, the judge was charged with falsifying the entire incident as a way to obtain prescription pain medication.
He was also charged with filing a false C-2 workers compensation form with the county.
After a 2015 trial, Barto was convicted on all counts, including insurance fraud, falsifying business records, and falsely reporting an incident.
Barto received a six-month prison sentence and five-year probation — and was made to pay $41,000 in restitution for the costs of his medical treatment — but he appealed the conviction.
In its Nov. 18 decision, the New York Appellate Division found sufficient evidence to uphold the conviction. Barto had no cuts or bruises, no internal injuries, and no ligature marks or petechial hemorrhage on his neck from being strangled, the court found.
The appellate court also found that while Barto had not filed the C-2 worker’s compensation form himself, he was still guilty of falsifying business records because he should have known that falsely reporting injuries would have led to the filing.
“Indeed, we conclude that the jury could reasonably find that the filing of the false workers’ compensation form was integral to the defendant’s intent to defraud,” the three-page ruling states.
The court agreed with Barto’s attorney, Gary Muldoon, who had complained of prosecutorial misconduct due to improper comments made by the lead prosecutor about how the trial had taken two years from his life.
However, the court ruled that those comments may have actually lessened Barto’s sentence from the original 2 1/3 to 7-year maximum sought to the six months he received.
Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch originally had indicted Barton on nine charges, including stealing gasoline from a cemetery at which Barto was a paid sexton. Those counts were later reduced to seven.
Muldoon has maintained that Barto was attacked in 2013 and that he had damage to his head. During the appeal he also dismissed claims by the prosecution that Barto was a prescription pain medication addict, saying his client has been on the pain meds for years.
Muldoon did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.