LOCAL L.A. Now

Prosecutor suggests judge on trial for battery could be mentally ill

A city prosecutor told a Van Nuys jury Wednesday a judge on trial for battery for allegedly pushing a woman to the ground during an argument over a bag of dog waste could be mentally ill.

Deputy City Atty. Joshua Geller made the claim during closing statements in the weeklong trial while acknowledging the alleged victim is also "a troubled person."

Geller accused the defense of trying to smear the woman by contending she is mentally ill. He said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Richman went out of his way during the confrontation to continue engaging her until he snapped and pushed her to the ground.

"He too may be suffering from some undiagnosed mental condition," Geller said. "This is someone who picked a complete stranger to accost in the street."

Richman, 55, is charged with one misdemeanor count of battery in connection with the July 18 incident near his Chatsworth home.

The city attorney's office contends Richman pushed Connie F. Romero from behind. Romero, 51, suffered minor injuries, including a cut above her eye and scrapes to her wrist and knee.

Richman testified this week Romero responded aggressively when he asked her to pick up a bag of dog waste she dropped in the street near his home and that she threw the bag into his car. He said she then walked up his driveway and pushed him.

During the trial, Romero admitted she was 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.

A defense witness, an emergency room doctor who tried to treat her injuries following the confrontation with Richman, testified Romero acted aggressively toward him at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, verbally abused him using obscenities and appeared to be mentally ill.

But Geller accused the defense of trying to "smear" Romero and of bullying her during cross-examination.

The prosecutor asked jurors whether Romero appeared to be someone sophisticated enough to fabricate her account and noted she told one of Richman's neighbors, as well as the police and paramedics, she had been pushed from behind.

Geller said Romero tried to explain she would return for the bag during her walk with the dogs and was, in her own way, "trying to solve the problem" when she put the bag of dog feces in the judge's car.

He said Romero was teasing the judge and continued to do so when she confronted him at his home, telling him while nearly nose-to-nose that his breath stank.

Richman, the prosecutor said, could have treated his initial interaction with Romero as a funny story about "dog poop" but the judge "turned it into a misdemeanor."

"He acted out of impulse and he acted out of frustration," Geller told jurors.

Richman's attorney, James Blatt, is expected to give his closing argument Wednesday afternoon.

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

Twitter: @jackfleonard

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