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'I'm shaking, I'm sick, I'm an emotional mess': Texts from clerk could mark end of judge's career

'I'm shaking, I'm sick, I'm an emotional mess': Texts from clerk could mark end of judge's career
Valeriano Saucedo, shown in this 2002 staff photo, has been removed as a judge in Tulare County after he tried to manipulate his way into a relationship with his courtroom clerk. (Brian Vawter / Fresno Bee)

The text messages to Valeriano Saucedo's phone came in quick succession.

"I think it's time I tell [my husband] absolutely everything … I'm shaking, I'm sick, I'm an emotional mess," the first message read. "The lies to my family and friends its not worth how I'm feeling right now."

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A minute later, another note arrived: "And they don't deserve this. I will also seek a therapist tomorrow just so you know. This has gone bad."

So marked the beginning of the end of Saucedo's 14-year career as a Superior Court judge in Tulare County — which started to unravel when he allegedly tried to manipulate his way into a relationship with his courtroom clerk.

The judge, according to the state Commission on Judicial Performance, essentially tried to make the clerk see him as a confidant who could support her emotionally and financially. They described his conduct as "deceitful, calculated and unseemly."

The clerk eventually told Saucedo that she was going to tell her husband everything when the judge asked her if he was an "ordinary friend" or a "special friend," according to the commission.

On Tuesday the commission announced that after a lengthy investigation it had ordered that Saucedo be removed from the bench.

In its decision, the panel noted that throughout its inquiry Saucedo, 64, denied essential facts about the case. It said that his conduct was so "completely at odds with the core qualities and role of a judge that no amount of mitigation can redeem the seriousness of the wrongdoing."

Saucedo has 30 days to appeal the decision. His attorneys declined to comment Tuesday.

According to the commission's notice of formal proceedings on Saucedo, the judge's plan to win over his clerk began in September 2013 when he postmarked two envelopes and typed up two letters, signing one as anonymous.

The first letter was purportedly sent by a "friend" of the clerk's husband and mailed to the husband and to the judge. In it, the clerk's husband is told that his wife is having an affair with a bailiff from a neighboring courtroom — someone she had dated once years before. It was not clear if the two had an ongoing relationship at the time of the two letters.

The second letter was a personal note from Saucedo to the clerk, in which he told her he could intercept the letter supposedly sent to her husband before he saw it if she just trusted him. The clerk agreed to meet the judge in a law library later that day.

There, Saucedo allegedly asked his clerk to tell him everything about her relationship with the bailiff and offered to help her financially.

According to the commission's investigation documents, Saucedo bought his clerk and her family a trip to Disneyland, a BMW, offered legal advice to her son and even made his car payments. The judge also routinely deposited money into her bank account when it was low, more than $26,000 in just two months, the commission found, adding that Saucedo expected quick responses to his text messages and updates on the clerk's mood.

"As I've told you, from here on out, you will no longer have any financial worries. However, you must trust me unconditionally and voluntarily tell me everything," one message from Saucedo to his clerk read. "Don't be like my former clients. They didn't lie to me. Sometimes they forgot to tell me important things. Don't feel embarrassed or like a burden. I can handle anything."

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Though the clerk said she "appreciated" the gifts, she also stressed that Saucedo was texting her too often. Cracks in the arrangement began to show when the clerk told Saucedo it appeared he wanted her to have an "emotional affair" with him, which he denied.

Four days later, the clerk told Saucedo that she was going to tell her husband about the arrangement.

Saucedo responded that his career would be over before threatening suicide. He then deposited $8,000 in the clerk's account and wrote her a letter accusing her of extortion, according to commission documents.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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