Family Court Judge recommended for removal

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Bryan R. Hedges, a former Judge of the Onondaga County Family Court, should be removed from office for sexual misconduct with his then 5-year-old niece, who was deaf and communication-challenged. The encounter occurred in 1972 but did not come to light until 2012, after the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution had expired.Judge Hedges resigned in April 2012 upon being advised he was under investigation. Removal disqualifies him from ever being a judge again.William T. Easton, the referee who presided at the disciplinary hearing in Syracuse in June, recommended that the charge against Judge Hedges be sustained. He found that, while visiting his in-laws in Albany in 1972, Hedges motioned to his niece to join him while he was masturbating, then put her hand on his penis as he continued. The Commission found that even Hedges’ version – that his niece came onto the bed and put her hand on his hand while he was masturbating – was an act of moral turpitude that disqualified him from being a judge, notwithstanding that it occurred long before he took office.STATEMENT BY COMMISSION ADMINISTRATOR ROBERT H. TEMBECKJIAN“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.”IDENTITY OF THE VICTIMConsistent with past practice, the Commission redacted the name of the victim from the record, referring to her as “E.” However, she has notified the Commission that she wishes to be identified. Her name is Ellen Cantwell Warner. She may be reached via Randi Bregman, Executive Director of Vera House in Syracuse: (315) 425-0818. TTY: (315) 484-7263.

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