Judge George Wittlinger, a Town Justice in Ancram, New York (but not a lawyer), has resigned from his position after 22 years on the bench. But this isn’t your standard gold watch moment.
That’s because in December, Wittlinger was informed that the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct was investigating allegations he “encourag[ed] a minor to have sex with his teenage son, offer[ed] her gifts and money in exchange for sexual favors, and provid[ed] her with alcoholic beverages.” Yikes. Wittlinger was scheduled to appear for testimony before the Commission on January 12, 2022, but rather than do that, he just handed in his resignation (agreeing to never seek or accept judicial office again) — a move that put the kibosh on the investigation.
As Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said:
“Claims of sexual impropriety, particularly where they involve a judge and a minor, must be dealt with promptly as well as fairly, in order to maintain public confidence in the courts. Whether or not such serious allegations lead to criminal or civil proceedings, the Judicial Conduct Commission will investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action. Effectuating a judge’s permanent departure from the bench is our most significant authority, and that happened here.”
As reported by the New York Post, the matter came to the Commission’s attention when the alleged victim, under the moniker P.T., filed a $7 million lawsuit against the judge and his son, Daniel, alleging the judge pressured her into a sexual relationship with the son and offered her money to “fondle” him:
In 2020, the accuser filed suit anonymously under the initials P.T., claiming that at 15, the judge had her and her sister move into his home and provided for them while P.T. dated Daniel from 2017 through 2020.
P.T. claimed that the dad frequently got her drunk, encouraged her to sleep with his son and also once offered to pay her to “fondle” the judge. George also walked in on the teens having sex more than once, the suit alleges.
And when P.T. wanted out of the relationship, knowing she was poor, George paid her $15 an hour to be a housemaid, brought her into court to train as a clerk and encouraged her to marry Daniel, the filing alleged.
The case was dismissed when, as described by P.T.’s lawyer, Michael Sussman, she was “terrified to proceed and the lawsuit had to essentially be dropped.”
Through their lawyer, William Dreyer, the Wittlingers denied the allegations in the lawsuit. Dreyer noted the judge “resigned in December at the age of 87.”
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).
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