(CN) - The Ohio Supreme Court sanctioned a Cleveland judge for becoming an "advocate" for the alleged victim in an elder assault case.
Cuyahoga County Court Judge Daniel Gaul was suspended for six months, all of which were stayed, for suspecting that a man accused of attacking and robbing an 83-year-old woman and her caregiver was trying to prevent his alleged victims from testifying.
Gaul said he became suspicious when the victims failed to appear in court, especially in light of the caregiver's admission that she had a relationship with the defendant and smoked crack with him.
When the victims failed to appear in court for a second day, Gaul issued an Amber Alert, a concerted effort involving the media and law enforcement, to find them.
Gaul also stated in court that the defendant had allegedly broken the elderly victim's hip, and the defendant called out that he had not.
Gaul responded, "I'm going to tell you something right now. I'm not here to hear from you, and if you make one more comment to me, I'm going to have you bound and gagged."
Gaul then recused himself from the case, declaring himself an advocate for the elderly victim.
He told the defendant, "I have to step out of my role now as being a fair and impartial judge and indicate that I have become ... an advocate for justice. Because justice may be blind, but justice has a heart, and it has a soul, and it has common sense. And I would bet my life on the fact that you, sir, have been involved in an obstruction of justice."
Defense counsel objected.
Gaul continued, "Okay, and I also would bet my life, if I had to right now, that you have been involved in a technical kidnapping through (the caregiver)."
Cleveland doesn't have an NHL franchise, but Gaul used a hockey reference to explain his actions later to the media.
"[S]ometimes you get checked into the boards, and sometimes you've got to check somebody into the boards, but I'm not going to sit idly by and dismiss this case. If I dismiss this case, (the defendant) wins, and he could be out on the streets of our community tonight. He could be at this elderly woman's house tonight, smoking crack again. And that's not going to happen on my watch."
The defendant pleaded guilty before a different judge and went to prison for two years.
The Ohio Supreme Court issued the stayed suspension to Gaul in a per-curiam decision.
"Although respondent may have appropriately recused himself due to his suspicions about defendant, his recusal did not excuse the highly prejudicial and unnecessary comments he directed toward the defendant both before and after the recusal decision," the justices wrote.
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