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NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct censures judge in Charlie Tan case

Judge James Piampiano will be censured over conduct related to the Charlie Tan trial, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced Monday. (WHAM photo - file, Feb. 2016)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Judge James Piampiano will be censured over conduct related to the Charlie Tan trial, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced Monday.

The Commission made the determination on March 13 but released it Monday. Judge Piampiano received it on March 20.

It found that Piampiano should be disciplined for two incidents of misconduct related to the Tan trial: making public comments on the case while it was still pending, and for threatening to handcuff and jail prosecutor Bill Gargan when he tried to grant a defense motion to dismiss a murder charge.

The Commission found that leading up to the 2016 State Supreme Court election, Monroe County Court Judge Piampiano gave three separate media interviews during which he made "prohibited public comments" about the pending Tan murder case.

Piampiano was elected as a State Supreme Court Justice a short time later.

Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian released a statement about Piampiano's decision to give interviews:

“What a judge says in court is rightfully public and available to report. But a judge must not undermine public confidence in the judiciary by making public comments off the bench on the merits of pending or impending cases. A judge must avoid even the appearance of deciding a matter before the trial or appellate record is complete. Here again, to his credit, Judge Piampiano acknowledged and accepted responsibility for his behavior.”

Tembeckjian also responded to Piampiano's threat to handcuff and jail a prosecutor responding to the move to dismiss the murder charges against Tan.

“It was wrong for Judge Piampiano for threaten to punish a lawyer for trying to address the court on an important motion. To his credit, Judge Piampiano acknowledged and accepted responsibility for his conduct.”

Piampiano's current term expires on December 31, 2029.

An appellate court has not yet issued a decision about whether Tan would be tried again for the death of his father, Jim Tan, in February 2015.

After the trial ended in a hung jury in 2015, Judge Piampiano dismissed the case. Typically an appeal can only be ordered after a verdict has actually been rendered in a case. For Tan, the case ended with a hung jury.

The next possible date for a decision would be Friday, March 31.

The Monroe County District Attorney's Office issued a statement Monday afternoon:

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct today released their decision to formally censure Judge Piamipano in regards to his ethical conduct during the trial against Charlie Tan. At the time of the trial, I recognized that the Judge’s conduct was seriously inappropriate and acted to notify the Commission. This severe reprimand against Judge Piampiano indicates that his actions during the trial went beyond judicial ethics. The District Attorney’s Office is prepared to move on from this matter as we await the decision regarding our appeal from the New York State Appellate Court Division.

A judge may either accept the Commission's determination about the censure or request a review by the Court of Appeals within 30 days.


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