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Judge Gets Porn Reprimand

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A judge who repeatedly viewed pornography on the computer in his chambers apologized Friday after receiving a public reprimand from the Florida Supreme Court for violating judicial ethics.

Circuit Judge Brandt C. Downey III of Clearwater told the high court he was “sorry” after Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis called his conduct “truly shocking” and an embarrassment to his friends, his family, the judiciary and the citizens of Florida.

“I am embarrassed to sit in the middle chair this morning,” Lewis told Downey as he stood alone before the seven justices. “To have a judge compelled to come before this court because of the type of behavior just stipulated constitutes true tarnish.”

The Supreme Court accepted an agreement in which Downey, 60, admitted accessing pornographic Internet sites from 2002 through 2005.

The deal also requires Downey, who has served 21 years on the bench, to retire when his term expires Jan. 1, receive counseling, never again seek re-election or reappointment and not do any post-retirement work as a senior judge.

“I acknowledge that my actions were inappropriate,” Downey told the justices. “I beg everyone’s forgiveness.”

Downey said he has told family and friends he was sorry and, as also required by the agreement, signed letters of resignation and public apology.

He added that he believes God has forgiven him. He said his family and friends also have forgiven him and urged him to seek re-election, but he declined to avoid further embarrassment and publicity, Downey said.

Lewis called the high court’s acceptance of the agreement “almost a deal with the devil” because Downey will be allowed to stay on the bench until his term ends. During that time, though, his computer use will be restricted.

In the settlement, Downey also denied allegations that he failed to share a juror’s note with lawyers and that his conduct toward two female lawyers was inappropriate. Lewis described the latter allegation during the reprimand.

In one instance Downey allegedly showed inordinate interest in a young state attorney, asking her to approach the bench to tell her that she “looked nice today.”

He also was accused of asking another female lawyer to approach the bench for personal conversation and sending her an e-mail saying “it was nice seeing u in court looking so pretty.”

“What were you thinking?” Lewis asked.

Lewis also said court personnel were exposed to the pornography on his computer and he kept accessing the sites even after technicians had warned him they contained viruses that could infect the entire courthouse computer system.

“The unacceptable behavior in which you engaged presents a picture of someone who simply does not understand the rudimentary bounds of judicial decorum or just doesn’t care,” Lewis told Downey.

It was the second time this week the high court has publicly reprimanded an errant judge. Lewis scolded Circuit Judge Richard Albritton Jr. of Panama City on Monday for a series of ethical violations including unconstitutionally ordering a probationer to attend church.

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