LOCAL L.A. Now

Judge on trial in dog-feces case says alleged victim pushed him first

A Los Angeles County judge on trial for battery testified Tuesday that he pushed a woman after she threw a bag of dog waste into his car, screamed expletives at him, walked onto the driveway of his Chatsworth home and pushed him.

Superior Court Judge Craig Richman said the woman became aggressive after he stopped his car and politely asked her to pick up a bag of animal waste that he said he saw her drop while she was walking three small dogs. 

Connie F. Romero, he said, refused his request and unleashed a stream of profanity at him. Richman said he told her he was a police officer in an unsuccessful attempt to calm her down.

"She was spitting fire," Richman told a Van Nuys courtroom, where supporters as well as lawyers watched from the audience.

Richman, 55, testified that Romero threw the bag with dog excrement through the open front passenger window of his car.

He said she laughed and told him, "If you want it so badly, here it is."

Richman said he drove into his home's garage nearby and that Romero walked onto his driveway. He said he told her to leave and that she was trespassing but Romero approached so close that she was six to eight inches from his face.

"And your breath stinks too," she told him, Richman testified.

He said she pushed him, forcing him backward, and then moved up to him again.

"I raised my hands and pushed her to separate her from me and create a safety zone," Richman said. Romero, he said, stumbled and fell.

Romero suffered several minor injuries, including a cut above her eye. The city attorney's office, which filed a misdemeanor battery charge against Richman, contends that Romero never pushed him and that she was shoved to the ground from behind. 

Richman rejected a plea deal that would have led to a year of anger-management counseling. If convicted, he faces up to six months in jail.

Answering questions from defense attorney James Blatt, Richman testified that Romero demanded he call her an ambulance following the incident.

"I responded, 'No. Clean yourself up and get off my property,'" Richman told the court. He said he put a towel near her and then walked into his home. 

"I thought I was the victim of this incident," Richman testified. "It was obvious to me that she was severely mentally ill."

He is expected to be cross-examined this afternoon.

Richman spent about 20 years as a county prosecutor, serving as an assistant head deputy in San Fernando and a supervisor in the unit that prosecutes crimes against peace officers. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the judiciary about eight years ago. Richman was transferred from downtown, where he had been presiding over felony trials, to the Chatsworth courthouse after the battery charge was filed. 

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

Twitter: @jackfleonard

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