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Judge faces removal over '72 child sex incident

ALBANY -- The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has concluded that a child sex incident that predated his 27 years as an Onondaga County Family Court judge constitutes misconduct that disqualifies Bryan R. Hedges from ever again being a judge.

The commission, in a report issued yesterday, recommended permanent removal of Hedges, who resigned in April after learning he was under investigation for the 1972 incident.

Hedges' lawyer, Robert Julian, had recommended the commission dismiss the charge. He said he will appeal the commission ruling to the New York Court of Appeals.

In a statement yesterday, Hedges said he is "devastated" and hopes the court will reverse it. "The allegations are untrue. The administrative process is deficient in terms of being a fair fact-finding procedure," he said.

"It is not common to remove a judge for behavior that occurred years before taking the bench. But sexual misconduct with a child is so egregious that, even if it comes to light decades later, it must be addressed," said commission administrator Robert Tembeckian. "An act of such moral turpitude undermines the integrity of the judiciary and disqualifies the perpetrator from being a judge."

According to the commission, the incident occurred when Hedges was 25 and involved a 5-year-old girl. It became known only this year, and Hedges and the alleged victim, now 45, gave differing accounts. Attorney William Easton, the referee who presided at the disciplinary hearing in June, recommended that the misconduct charge against Hedges be upheld.

The commission was divided 7-2 on recommending removal. The dissenters, attorneys Joel Cohen and Paul B. Harding, said they would have accepted the 65-year-old Hedges' resignation with no further action, provided he agree that the record would become public should he ever return to judicial office or hold some other position of public trust.

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