Judge who owns gun store booted from bench for pointing gun at Black man in court

New York judge Robert J. Putorti has been booted from the bench for pointing a loaded gun at a Black man in his courtroom. The incident occurred eight years ago but the New York State Court of Appeals just upheld the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct recommendation to remove Putorti.

"We have never had a situation other than this case, where a judge — with or without justification — pointed a gun at a litigant in a courthouse," said commission administrator Robert Tembeckjian.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Putorti had a license to carry the firearm, and according to the decision, he had a habit of keeping the gun attached to the underside of the bench while he was hearing cases. Mr. Putorti also owns a gun and ammunition store, Bigboy's Guns, in Whitehall.

While Mr. Putorti initially said he drew the gun after the litigant approached the bench too quickly, he agreed that neither the police officer stationed in the courtroom nor an assistant district attorney present at the time would have corroborated his version of events[…]

In repeated retellings of the event to family members and colleagues, over a number of years, Mr. Putorti, who is white, variously described the litigant, a Black man who was 6 feet tall and 165 pounds, as an "agitated," "big Black man" who was "6 feet 9 inches tall" and "built like a football player," according to the decision. In his appeal, Mr. Putorti said he had "feared for his safety."

The appeals board found that Mr. Putorti had "exploited a classic and common racist trope that Black men are inherently threatening or dangerous," and that he had exhibited bias.