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Charles County judge is suspended for five days without pay for deflating tire

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Charles County judge who deflated the tire of a maintenance worker's car outside the La Plata courthouse last year has been suspended without pay for five days.

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The Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, set the punishment for Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley. The court agreed on the sanction Tuesday, and the order was signed Wednesday, said Nalley's attorney, William C. Brennan.

Brennan said Nalley, 66, would not comment on the suspension, which he must serve in the next 30 days.

In April, Nalley testified in an administrative hearing in Annapolis that his actions were "calculated" but benign. In a hearing before the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, Nalley said the 2004 Toyota Corolla was parked without authorization in a restricted zone designated for him.

The owner of the car, Jean Washington, said she thinks the court was too lenient.

"Five days' suspension without pay? I think that's ridiculous, and very disappointing," said Washington, who works with a cleaning crew at the courthouse.

During the April hearing, Nalley said he did not know who owned the car. "It was not thoughtless," Nalley said. "It was calculated in the sense I didn't want to make a big deal of it. I didn't want [the car] to be towed. I didn't want it to be ticketed."

Nalley also said at the hearing that if he considered leaving a note, he rejected the idea.

The majority of the appellate court agreed with the punishment. Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. said he thought Nalley should have gotten a reprimand.

The tampering was witnessed by two Charles sheriff's deputies, one of whom recorded it with a cellphone camera.

Within days of the incident, Nalley, whose annual salary is $140,352, resigned as chief administrative judge in Charles. He was then suspended from presiding over criminal cases in adult and juvenile courts. He still presides over civil cases.

In October, Nalley pleaded guilty in Charles District Court to tampering with a motor vehicle. The judge gave Nalley probation before judgment, which means Nalley will not have a conviction on his record if he completes the terms of his probation.

Nalley was also fined $500 and ordered to write a "heartfelt" letter of apology to Washington.

Nalley will resume presiding over criminal cases after the suspension.

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