The state of New York’s judicial conduct commission has ordered the removal of a town justice who bragged about brandishing his loaded gun at a “large Black man” during a court session.
According to The Associated Press, the 2015 incident occurred while Robert J. Putorti was overseeing a criminal case involving the Black defendant. In their decision that was released last Thursday, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct said that the 52-year-old, who works as a justice in Whitehall, pulled his licensed semiautomatic handgun at the man.
Putorti’s actions started drawing scrutiny in 2018 after he bragged about it to his colleagues during a Washington County Magistrates Association meeting. He is said to have bragged to his colleagues that the defendant he brandished his weapon at was a “large Black man” whose height was around 6 feet 9 inches and was “built like a football player.” But the commission said the Black defendant weighed 165 pounds, adding that his height was around 6 feet.
The 52-year-old judge said that he pulled his gun on the defendant because he walked to his bench in haste, the commission said. And after a colleague judge raised issues with Putorti’s comments, his supervisor told him that the only occasion that warrants him pulling a weapon on a defendant is when he feels it is prudent to defend himself or another individual from deadly physical force, per The Associated Press.
“Judge Hobbs added that the fact that a defendant may present as ‘large’ or make (Putorti) feel uncomfortable or nervous is insufficient basis for respondent to display his gun,” the commission said.
Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian also said in a statement that the “courthouse is where threats or acts of gun violence are meant to be resolved, not generated.”
“But for the fact that it happened in this case, it would otherwise be unfathomable for a judge to brandish a weapon in court, without provocation or justification. To then brag about it repeatedly with irrelevant racial remarks is utterly indefensible and inimical to the role of a judge,” Tembeckjian added.
And besides ordering his removal for pulling the gun on the Black defendant, the Commission also determined that Putorti contravened ethics rules for judges when he took to Facebook to encourage funds to be donated to his Elks lodge.