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Legal challenges likely in Mayor Warren’s criminal case

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: October 06, 2020 05:42 PM
Created: October 06, 2020 04:18 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Attorneys for Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Rochester Director of Finance Rosalind Brooks Harris and Albert Jones Jr. put their concerns about an out-of-county judge being assigned to the case on the record during their arraignments on Monday.

The lawyers take issue with comments made by Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley during a press conference announcing the indictments on Friday where Doorley said, “speaking with the Administrative Judge, we thought it would be better that there be a judge brought in who is not familiar with what is happening in Rochester and may not even be familiar with the Mayor so it would create a better appearance.”

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The defense attorneys say they didn’t ask for an out-of-county judge and weren’t consulted about it.

“She (Doorley) reached out to the Administrative Judge which we would consider an ex-parte contact without notifying the defense team that there was a conflict. I don't think there's any judge in this building that I've talked to that said they couldn't handle this case and if the DA has already reached out and said that these judges can't be fair and impartial how can we have a fair and impartial case in this county,” Mike Schiano said outside of the courthouse on Monday.

Schiano is representing Brooks Harris. Attorneys for Warren and Jones also put similar comments on the record during the arraignments of their clients.

The last time an out-of-county judge was brought in locally was when former Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio was charged with DWI. Her attorney at the time, Ed Fiandach, tells News10NBC, it was obvious that she couldn’t stand before one of her co-workers but in this case, the Mayor has no direct oversight or interaction with the judges.

Over the phone, Administrative Judge Hon. Craig Doran told News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke, “It is not unusual in a high profile case such as this for an administrative judge to exercise discretion and authority to assign a judge from outside the county.”

The other issue of concern for the defense is attorneys is whether the Grand Jury who indicted Warren, Brooks Harris and Jones was in fact, fair and impartial.

“What has transpired in downtown Rochester certainly over the last three weeks is, I don't want to use the word mayhem but at points, it certainly has been that way. Say they live in the suburbs and they drive in for grand jury duty every day and this is what they see and they're hearing a case concerning these three targets and they go out for lunch and they buy a hotdog at the hotdog stand and they see people protesting and calling for the resignation of the Mayor. It's not good publicity that's for sure and it's a very difficult thing to separate,” Mayor Warren’s attorney, Joe Damelio, said.  

Motions from defense attorneys are due in mid-December, the District Attorney’s response is due by the end of December and the next court appearance will be on Jan. 12.


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