By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 13, 2009; B01
A Charles County judge suspected of deflating a tire on a car parked near the courthouse admitted the action to his supervisor Wednesday and said he didn't think it was a "big deal," the supervisor said.
Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley made the statements in a conversation with William D. Missouri, chief administrative judge for Maryland's 7th Circuit, which includes Charles.
Missouri said in an interview Wednesday that Nalley had apologized to him -- not for deflating the tire, but for not notifying him about the matter. Missouri said he learned about the incident from a newspaper account Wednesday.
Missouri said he did not ask Nalley why he deflated the tire or press him for details.
La Plata police officers said Wednesday that they were investigating the incident. Regardless of whether the officers take action, Missouri suggested that Nalley, the Circuit Court's administrative judge for Charles, might be sanctioned.
"As judges, all we have is the public's trust," Missouri said. "If we lose that trust, we have nothing. I can assure you, [trust] will be maintained."
Nalley did not return phone calls from The Washington Post. But in an interview with the Maryland Independent newspaper published Wednesday, Nalley said that he had flattened the rear passenger-side tire of a 2004 Toyota Corolla that was parked near the courthouse in La Plata.
Nalley told the Independent that someone had repeatedly parked in a restricted zone and that he had left notes for the driver. Letting the air out of a tire was less inconvenient to the driver than having the car towed, Nalley said.
The owner of the Toyota, Jean Washington, said Wednesday that she had not received a note or a verbal warning to stay away from the parking area where she left her car Monday.
"The only warning I got was when he flattened my tire," Washington said.
Washington, 51, works part time at the courthouse as part of an evening cleaning crew. Until Monday, she said, she had parked in the same area without any trouble. There is a sign notifying drivers that the area is a restricted parking zone and that motorists are required to have a permit between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. There are no signs or markings indicating that spaces are reserved for Nalley or anyone else.
Washington said that she parked at 3:30 p.m. Monday and was told by a sheriff's deputy about 15 minutes later that Nalley was deflating one of her tires.
Washington said she did not have a permit to park in the area and would not have done so if she had been told she was not supposed to. Washington said she chose the spot because it is close to the courthouse and, because her work shift typically ends at 8:30 p.m., she doesn't like to walk to another parking lot in the dark.
Washington said Nalley should have called police or had her car towed rather than deflate the tire.
"If my car had been towed, that would have been my responsibility," Washington said. "If I had been ticketed, that would have been my responsibility."