L.A. County Superior Court Judge Craig Richman in his courtoom in May. Richman,… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)
It started out as a neighborhood dispute about cleaning up after pet dogs.
But the argument has escalated into a criminal case against a prominent local judge who has been charged with battery for allegedly pushing and injuring a woman who was walking her dogs.
City attorney officials said the quarrel occurred July 18 when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Richman saw Connie Romero place a plastic bag of animal waste on the curb next to a street.
Romero accuses Richman of pushing her from behind and knocking her to the ground, said city attorney's spokesman Rob Wilcox. Romero told authorities that her face struck the sidewalk as she fell, and that she suffered a cut over her left eye, a scrape on her left shoulder and swelling on her wrist. An LAPD spokesman said the incident occurred near Richman's Chatsworth home.
Romero said the judge left the scene, and she called police, Wilcox said.
Richman, a former county prosecutor who was appointed to the bench in 2005, was charged Oct. 16 with one misdemeanor count of battery.
The judge's attorney, James E. Blatt, disputed the allegations, describing Romero as the aggressor. Richman, he said, approached Romero and asked her to find a trash can for the excrement, but she threw the bag at him.
Blatt said Richman left the area and was followed to his home by Romero, who then confronted him in his driveway and pushed him. The judge, he said, pushed her back. Blatt said that Romero fell but got up and moved to the middle of the street, where she lay until neighbors found her.
"Not only has he done nothing wrong but it appears … that this is a total fabrication," Blatt said, calling Richman a "no-nonsense, beloved judge."
Blatt said he hoped to present evidence to the city attorney's office that will persuade prosecutors to drop the charge before Nov. 6, when Richman is scheduled to be arraigned in Van Nuys Superior Court.
Romero could not be reached for comment.
Richman, 55, spent about 20 years as a county prosecutor, serving as an assistant head deputy in San Fernando and a supervisor of the Target Crimes Division. As a judge, he most recently handled felony cases in the downtown criminal courts building.
Mary Hearn, a court spokeswoman, said Richman was reassigned from his downtown courtroom Monday. She said she did not know his current assignment and declined to comment further, saying it involved a personnel matter and an ongoing criminal court case.