Md. Judge Got No Citation for Wreck He Caused

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 28, 2005

Maryland state troopers said in a report two months ago that Prince George's County District Court Judge Richard A. Palumbo, the focus of controversy in recent days for a decision in a domestic violence case and a voided traffic ticket, caused a two-vehicle accident in Charles County. But they did not issue a citation to him.

The incident occurred six months after a trooper was "counseled" for deviating from official procedure by voiding a speeding ticket he had issued to Palumbo in Mitchellville. On Wednesday, the chief judge of the District Court temporarily removed Palumbo, 67, from the bench and reassigned him to administrative tasks following a Washington Post report on the voided ticket.

Palumbo has faced criticism for dismissing a protective order against a man who allegedly set his wife on fire three weeks later.

The Charles County accident occurred shortly after 1 p.m. Aug. 20 when Palumbo, driving a 2002 Ford F-150 truck that belongs to a cement company, was making a left turn into the parking lot of a general store on Chapel Point Road in the Port Tobacco area. Kimberly A. Corlette was driving a 2004 Nissan Xterra sport-utility vehicle south on Chapel Point Road, the report said.

The report identifies Palumbo's truck as Vehicle #1 and Corlette's SUV as Vehicle #2.

"Vehicle #1 failed to yield right of way to Vehicle #2, causing Vehicle #2 to collide with Vehicle #1," the report said. In an interview with The Post, Corlette said the front of her SUV was severely damaged and the vehicle had to be towed.

A trooper checked "yes" in the "fault" box underneath Palumbo's name and "no" under Corlette's.

But troopers did not issue a citation to Palumbo, Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley confirmed. Shipley said it is not unusual for troopers not to write a citation at an accident scene. "They have discretion," Shipley said.

Palumbo's attorney, William C. Brennan, said neither he nor his client had any comment. The trooper who investigated the accident and a corporal who is listed on the police report as a supervisor did not return phone calls.

Corlette, 32, was surprised to learn from a reporter this week that Palumbo did not receive a citation. "That's disgusting," she said.

Corlette said Palumbo did not want her to call police, tried to clean up debris before troopers arrived and told her four or five times that he was a judge. After he got out of the truck he was driving, Palumbo stumbled to his knees "five or six times," Corlette said.

"I asked him if he was okay. I was worried he was hurt in the accident," she said.

Corlette said that at one point Palumbo said, "You're going to be in trouble." When she asked why, Palumbo replied, "I'm a judge," she said.

"I told the [state trooper] I was intimidated," Corlette said. She said the trooper replied, "Sweetheart, I have no idea who that man is." Corlette said the trooper spoke to Palumbo, but she did not hear the exchange.

Asked whether Palumbo tried to influence the trooper, Shipley said, "I have no information about that." Shipley added, "It is not the policy of the Maryland State Police to withhold appropriate law enforcement action in any way based on someone's position."

Palumbo has been in the news because of his actions in a domestic violence case involving Yvette Cade, 31, and her husband, Roger B. Hargrave, 33.

On Sept. 19, Palumbo dismissed Cade's protective order against Hargrave. On Oct. 10, Hargrave allegedly doused Cade with gasoline and set her on fire. Cade suffered third-degree burns, the most serious level, on her torso and face. Hargrave is being held without bond on charges of attempted first-degree murder and assault.

Staff writer Joshua Partlow contributed to this report.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company