In Rochester New York, Democrat City Court Judge Leticia Astacio was escorted to jail on Thursday after a series of troubling violations. Astacio failed to appear at court the previous week, prompting Judge Stephen Aronson of Canandaigua City Court to issue a bench warrant for her arrest. She was taken into custody on Monday morning.
Unfortunately, this isn’t Astacio’s first run-in with the law. Elected in 2014 to a ten-year term, she was arrested by state troopers in 2016 for driving while under the influence. The officers were called to the scene of an accident on Interstate 490 on February 13. Astacio was apparently on her drunken way to criminal court to deliver verdicts when she crashed her car.
She refused to take the breathalyzer test the Trooper requested. In New York, the consequences for declining an intoxication test include automatic fines and suspensions. In August that year, Astacio was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge.
However, that penalty was extended to 2018 when she later admitted violating two conditions of the order. Her acknowledged offenses were not abstaining from alcohol during the allotted time and driving under the influence, yet again.
Astacio worked as a prosecutor in the Driving While Intoxicated Bureau of the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office for a short time in 2009. After the extended penalties were applied in March, she courted more trouble by attempting to drink and drive on April 29.
On that day, the interlock device on her car registered a blood alcohol content of .065 percent, preventing the ignition from starting. When summoned to court for that offense, she claimed that her daughter was the drunkard who registered the reading.
Because he wanted confirmation that she was staying clean, Judge Aronson ordered Astacio to submit to a urinalysis. She allegedly declined to take the test, which would detect the by-product of alcohol ethyl glucuronide. Her decision was another violation of the conditions included in the original sentence.
At the time, it was not clear if Astacio received the order. She jaunted off to Thailand for most of the month of May. Aronson summoned her to court again on the following Tuesday, but Astacio didn’t show. She fled the country and claimed she was visiting the monks in a temple. Although she later texted her lawyer to explain why she couldn’t appear in court, the damaged had already been done.
Because she was in violation of her sentence, Aronson issued the warrant for her arrest. Astacio returned from overseas last weekend but wasn’t taken into custody immediately.
In a bizarre twist to determine the extent of Astacio’s contempt for the law, her lawyer Ed Fiandach was subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify at Thursday’s hearing. Prosecutor Zach Maurer said on Thursday that he would not need to hear testimony from Fiandach. New evidence was discovered that supported the fact that Astacio did indeed know about the orders.
Apparently, the only reason she came home was due to the intervention of her supervising judge, Justice Craig Doran of the New York Supreme Court. He directed her to attend a meeting in his office this week at the Monroe County Hall of Justice.
Expressing concern in a letter he sent to Astacio, Doran explained that leaving the way she did constituted a “voluntary abandonment of public office. He also reasoned that it would be considered a breach of her judicial responsibility if she ignored the summons to return on June 5.
Astacio was arrested on Monday morning and appeared in court wearing handcuffs. She laughed and joked with her acquaintances as she entered the building.
However, Judge Aronson was not pleased. He ordered her held without bail until a hearing on Thursday would give her the opportunity to discuss his proposed plea deal again. During the hearing yesterday, Astacio refused to plead guilty to her violations. Aronson’s deal would sentence her to 45 days in jail and two years of probation. For six months of that time, she would be required to wear an ankle monitor.
She obviously has a severe drinking problem, which raises some troubling questions. New Yorkers wonder how many times Astacio presided over criminal courts while under the influence of alcohol. There’s also the possibility, as evidenced by her behavior, that she is a habitual drunk driver.
For now, Judge Astacio will remain behind bars. However, because she is still an elected judge, she will continue to collect her state salary of $173,700.