LOCAL L.A. Now

Judge will not face 'impersonating police' charge in dog poop case

A Los Angeles County judge on trial for allegedly shoving a woman after a dispute over a bag of dog feces will not face a new charge of impersonating a police officer.

The city attorney's office sought to add the misdemeanor charge at the end of testimony in the weeklong trial after Superior Court Judge Craig Richman admitted telling the woman he was a police officer in an unsuccessful effort to calm her down.

But the judge overseeing the battery trial, Christine C. Ewell, ruled Wednesday the new charge could not be added.

Ewell said she understood why the prosecutor made the request, but said adding the charge at this point in the case would unfairly affect the defense. Richman might have decided against testifying had he known he was facing such a charge, she said.

"I do think had the amendment been made earlier, the defendant may have conducted a very different defense," Ewell said.

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 snapped during the encounter and pushed Connie F. Romero from behind to the ground. She suffered minor injuries, including a cut above her eye and scrapes to her wrist and knee. 

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.

Richman testified this week in Van Nuys court that Romero became aggressive after he stopped his car and politely asked her to pick up a bag of animal waste he saw her drop while she was walking three small dogs.

He said he pushed her after she threw the bag of dog waste into his car, screamed expletives at him, walked onto the driveway of his Chatsworth home and pushed him first.

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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