In a public rebuke, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Robert J. Cordy has ordered District Court Judge Benjamin Barnes not to play a role in the assault case of a woman the judge had found not guilty when Suffolk prosecutors were not in the courtroom.
Cordy issued the ruling at the request of Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office after Barnes conducted a trial on June 25 in Chelsea District Court without a prosecutor in the courtroom, the Globe has reported.
Through a court spokeswoman, Barnes declined to comment on Cordy’s ruling.
Citing a transcript from the hearing, the Globe reported that the prosecutor assigned to the case, Michael LaFleur, rushed back to the courtroom when he was told that Barnes was going to handle the Robin Lee Scalesse criminal case. She was accused of beating up her former boyfriend’s new girlfriend, authorities said.
But by the time he returned, Scalesse was found not guilty, records show.
“Your honor, I’m right here,” LaFleur told the judge. “So found not guilty?”
The victim, a 51-year-old woman from Everett who said she was attacked by her boyfriend’s former girlfriend, had been waiting eight months for her day in court.
She told police that she was walking to work on Oct. 6, 2013, when Scalesse jumped out of a car and started arguing with her, poking a finger in the victim’s face.
Scalesse then punched the victim in the head, ripped out her earring, and scratched her neck, according to the victim.
“You got what was coming to you,” the woman quoted Scalesse as saying.
Scalesse’s lawyer had initially informed the judge on June 25 that Scalesse planned to plead guilty to assault and battery.
But when the case came up for hearing at 11:53 a.m., Scalesse indicated to the judge that she wanted a trial before the judge instead.
When Barnes agreed to the trial, the only prosecutor in the courtroom, Myriam Feliz, asked the judge if she could “run down and have ADA LaFleur come up,” according to a transcript of the hearing.
“Just walk. You don’t have to run,” the judge said at 12:03 p.m., according to the transcript.
At 12:11 p.m., the judge started the trial, without LaFleur.
“After hearing no witnesses and no information from the Commonwealth and they’re not present, the court’s going to find the defendant not guilty. Thank you,” Barnes said at 12:12 p.m.
Court was adjourned at 12:12:50 p.m., the transcript shows.
Twenty seconds later, LaFleur showed up.
Following Barnes’s decision in June, prosecutors pushed for him to reconsider his decision, triggering a second trial in July.
This time, the Globe reported, the defense, the prosecution, and the defendant were in the courtroom in front of Barnes.
Barnes, according to prosecutors, reversed his not-guilty finding, but then ordered the criminal charges against Scalesse dismissed.
Conley’s office then asked a single justice of the SJC to step in and undo what Barnes had done.
In a one-page order dated Wednesday, Cordy agreed with prosecutors, publicly dismissing Barnes from having any future role in the Scalesse case and also overturning his rulings.
“The Chelsea District Court’s order of dismissal without prejudice shall be vacated’’ and “the matter shall be reassigned to a new judge,’’ Cordy wrote.