A Charles County judge is under investigation for allegedly letting the air out of the tire of a car belonging to a woman who works as a part-time cleaning worker at the courthouse, according to the car owner and sources familiar with the incident.
Two county sheriff’s jail officers said they saw Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley letting the air out of the back right tire of a 2004 Toyota Corolla parked just outside the La Plata courthouse about 3:45 p.m. Monday, according to the two sources.
Apparently, the woman had taken Nalley’s spot:
Jean Washington, the owner of the Toyota, said in an interview that she had just entered the courthouse for her work shift when a sheriff’s deputy alerted her, “Jean, you need to move your car. Judge Nalley’s going to let the air out of it.”
Washington, 51, said she rushed out and moved her car to a different parking lot, farther from the courthouse. When she pulled into another parking spot, another sheriff’s deputy told her that her rear passenger tire was flat, Washington said.
Judge Nalley, we kind of love you. That’s what you get for taking a judge’s parking spot, cleaner lady!
Unfortunately, Nalley may not be entitled to his parking spot righteousness.
Cleaner lady Washington told the Washington Post that the spot is not marked as Nalley’s or anyone else’s. It just had a sign saying “Restricted Parking Only.”
Nalley is not being a pansy about this and trying to deny it — which would be difficult to do since one of the officers who spotted him filmed him with a cellphone — but he is trying to justify it. Nalley told the The Independent that his parking spot being stolen was a recurring problem:
“Absolutely, I plead guilty,” said Charles County Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley.
The judge said someone parked in the restricted area repeatedly, even though Nalley had left notes and deflated the person’s tire on previous occasions. Instead of inconveniencing the vehicle’s driver by calling police and having the vehicle towed, Nalley simply let the air out of one tire Monday, he said.
“I noticed the car is not there for the first time in several days,” Nalley said Tuesday.
Oh yeah, street justice! Works every time.
One ATL reader sent this story along, noting:
I’ve appeared before this judge. He has quite a reputation.
Is it a reputation for being a badass? In a follow-up story by the Post, his supervisor says Nalley thinks everyone just needs to chill out about this:
A Charles County judge suspected of deflating a tire on a car parked near the courthouse admitted the action to his supervisor Wednesday and said he didn’t think it was a “big deal,” the supervisor said.
Jon Katz, who
regularly occasionally appears in Nalley’s courthouse, thinks it is a big deal though:
In any event, what kind of criminal prosecution does Judge Nalley’s admitted action exposes him to? Possibly the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment. Possibly attempted destruction of property for any reason a deflated tire could have led to damage to the tire or car; for the choate Maryland crime of property destruction, it appears that a conviction can be obtained for reasonably foreseeable destruction of property that is proximately caused by an intentional act — In re Taka C., 331 Md. 80, 626 A.2d 366 (1993). Possibly criminal harassment, depending on the wording of the county’s criminal harassment code provision. If there is any prosecution, so long as Judge Nalley remains on the bench, I surmise that the state prosecutor’s office, a different county prosecutor’s office, or a specially-appointed private practitioner would handle a prosecution. I do not think the admitted facts justify a prosecution of anybody, and doubt that an accident was likely with the air being released from just one tire, but all the time we see police and prosecutors overcharging and overprosecuting.
Of course, Judge Nalley also faces the risk of penalties to his professional position, and his reputation is now on the line from this story. For instance, the regional chief administrative judge, William Missouri, told the Washington Post: “As judges, all we have is the public’s trust … If we lose that trust, we have nothing. I can assure you, [trust] will be maintained.”
C’mon, Katz. Why do you have to deflate the fun of this story?
Charles County Judge Suspected of Deflating Worker’s Tire [Washington Post]
Judge Says Deflating Tire On Car Wasn’t ‘Big Deal’ [Washington Post]
Judge ‘guilty’ in tire deflation over parking [The Independent]
Why would a judge let air out of someone’s tire? [Katz Justice]
Judges Behaving Badly [Blogonaut]