Whitehall, N.Y. (AP) – A town justice in upstate New York who bragged to colleagues about pulling a loaded gun on a “large Black man” in court should be removed from ofﬁce, the state’s judicial conduct commission determined.
Robert J. Putorti, 52, a non-attorney who is a justice in the town of Whitehall northeast of Albany, was presiding in a criminal case in 2015 when he brandished a semiautomatic handgun at a defendant, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct said in a decision released Thursday.
The incident began to draw scrutiny in 2018 when Putorti described his actions at a meeting of the Washington County Magistrates Association, boasting he had pulled his licensed gun on a ”large Black man” about 6 feet 9 inches tall and “built like a football player.” In fact, the commission said, the man was about 6 feet tall and weighed 165 pounds.
Putorti said he had brandished his gun because the defendant approached the bench “too quickly,” the commission said.
After another judge expressed concern about Putorti’s remarks, Putorti’s supervisor, Glens Falls City Court Judge Gary Hobbs, told Putorti not to pull a gun on a defendant unless he believed it was necessary to defend himself or someone else from deadly physical force.
“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.