Syracuse, New York, 2012: County Family Court Judge Bryan Hedges abruptly resigned after being confronted with allegations that he sexually abused his niece in 1972. The victim was 5 years old at the time, deaf and mute, and unable to communicate. Following his resignation, Hedges was permanently removed from the bench following an investigation by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Hedges was not a judge at the time of the incident. The victim’s mother recorded a conversation with Hedges in which he admitted to sexual contact with the child and said his actions were “totally wrong” and “very, very, very, bad“. The victim came forward as a teenager, and again after after news of child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State and Syracuse University triggered a memory. The victim now communicates through American Sign Language and writing. The victims says she has re-occurring flashbacks about the abuse, and remains traumatized.
According to a report by the Times Union,”Hedges attempted to keep the 40-year-old molestation a secret by voluntarily retiring from the bench and seeking confidentiality when his case reached the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. The agency investigates complaints against judges in the state’s Unified Court System.” However, when the Commission ruled 7-2 to to issue a removal determination against Hedges, the record of commission proceedings become public. Due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, criminal charges can not be brought against Hedges.
Hedges denied the allegations, and appealed the decision of the Commission. In April 2013, the Appellate Court upheld the removal of Judge Hedges, stating in its ruling, “..Petitioner admits that conduct of this nature in fact occurred…Accordingly, the determined sanction of removal should be accepted without costs, and petitioner should be removed from the office of Judge of the Family Court, Onondaga County.” https://www.scribd.com/document/137927058/Court-of-Appeals-decision-on-Bryan-Hedges
Hedges served on the Family Court bench since 1985, winning three elections in 28 years. He will never be able to take the bench, as judge, again.
In a news release, Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian says, “It is not common to remove a judge for behavior that occurred years before taking the bench. But sexual misconduct with a child is so egregious that, even if it comes to light decades later, it must be addressed. An act of such moral turpitude undermines the integrity of the judiciary and disqualifies the perpetrator from being a judge.
With this decision, the Commission makes public a horrible 40-year secret that, had it been known, would likely have prevented Mr. Hedges from being a judge in the first place. Removal from office insures that he will never return to the bench, delivers some measure of justice to the victim, and sends an important message to the public that the integrity of the judiciary will be protected.” Former Onondaga County Family Court Judge Removed for Sexual Misconduct with His 5-Year-Old Niece before Becoming a Judge
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