The woman who accused a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge of shoving her to the ground for leaving a bag of dog waste near his home testified Thursday that part of her dog-walking routine involved putting the bag down on the street and then picking it up on her way home.
Quivering and crying, Connie F. Romero said one of the three small dogs she was paid to walk didn't like the sound of wind hitting the plastic waste bag. So for a year and a half, she limited the amount of time that she held it during their walk.
Last July though, Judge Craig Richman, hurrying home to take his son to LAX, saw Romero drop the bag and stopped his car to confront her. She explained her routine, but he repeated his demands, yelling as loud as a basketball coach, she testified.
Romero said she dropped the waste into his car. Richman parked in his garage and then continued to confront her on his driveway, she said. The Los Angeles city attorney's office charged Richman with misdemeanor battery for allegedly pushing her from behind without provocation.
"She had a moment of clarity, and she turned to walk away," City Atty. Joshua Geller said during an opening statement. "That's when she felt two hands on her pushing her face-first into the pavement."
Richman told her he was a peace officer and repeatedly tried to calm her down, his lawyer said during opening statements Thursday.
"She's screaming, she's hollering and she pushes him," attorney James Blatt told jurors. "He puts his hands on her, and her feet get tangled in the [dogs'] leashes and she falls."
Jurors face the question of whether Richman shoved Romero from behind in response to vulgarities she directed at him or whether Richman acted in self-defense because Romero trespassed onto his property and pushed him first.
Romero suffered several minor injuries, including a cut above her left eye. Richman, a longtime Los Angeles prosecutor who had been presiding over felony cases downtown, was transferred to the Chatsworth courthouse after charges were filed.
The judge's attorney said he plans to attack Romero's credibility by having witnesses speak about her history of "aggressive and erratic" behavior.
The attorney began Thursday by asking Romero whether she was committing welfare fraud by collecting disability payments at the time she was earning — and not reporting — $250 a month for walking the dogs and cleaning the house of a couple in Richman's neighborhood. She acknowledged that she was.
Blatt also told jurors that Richman was on the phone via Bluetooth with a caterer during most of the argument, and that the man on the other end of the conversation would testify that he heard Romero argue with Richman.
"At the end of this case, it will be overwhelmingly clear that this case should not have been brought here," Blatt said, calling Richman the victim.
The prosecutor alleged that Richman threw a towel at Romero as she was bleeding and told her to leave.
Richman, 55, rejected a plea deal that would have led to a year of anger-management counseling, attorneys said. If he is convicted, he faces up to six months in jail.
In between bursts of tears on the stand, Romero locked eyes at least four times with a stone-faced Richman.
She recalled that after being knocked to the ground and nearly blacking out, she asked Richman "Why did you have to hurt me?"
In response to questions from Blatt, Romero admitted to suffering from depression, but she said she had been happy while walking the dogs because she was planning to celebrate her birthday one night early with her family.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times