Rotterdam’s two town justices will temporarily take the bench for William Reynolds in Princetown as the embattled justice sorts through legal troubles stemming from allegations that he fired a shotgun at deer wandering through his neighborhood this week.
Reynolds voluntarily agreed to suspend his duties in the court until he can resolve his criminal case, said Vito Caruso, the Fourth Judicial District’s administrative judge. The 56-year-old town justice faces misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest following an incident that occurred at his Muriel Peterson Drive home Monday evening.
“It was the prudent thing to do for the judge to recuse himself in this case and step aside,” Caruso said. “It’s a little inconvenient for the two judges in Rotterdam, but I think they can more than amply cover the Princetown court as well.”
Reynolds, who was arrested by state police, would have faced a slew of legal conflicts had he continued hearing cases. The bulk of the court’s cases are brought in by troopers patrolling the town and Interstate 88.
“In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, I have voluntarily and temporarily suspended my activities as judge for the duration of the case pending against me,” Reynolds said in an email to the Daily Gazette.
Justices Ken Litz and Kevin Mercoglin will take turns on the Princetown bench while continuing to maintain their case-
load in Rotterdam, which is the busiest among Schenectady County’s six justice courts. Rotterdam’s court is in session Mondays and Thursdays, meaning one of the justices should be available to cover Princetown’s normal court session on Wednesdays.
“We’re both happy to help out under the circumstances,” Litz said Thursday. “In order to accommodate Judge Caruso, we will make do.”
State police responded to Reynolds’ residence sometime during the evening hours on St. Patrick’s Day after receiving a report of gunfire in the neighborhood. Investigators said Reynolds was uncooperative upon their arrival, then attempted to resist when troopers tried to place him in their custody. Reynolds was allegedly found violating DEC laws, including shooting deer out of season and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. His residence is located within a rural residential neighborhood that terminates at the edge of I-88.
Caruso acknowledged the situation isn’t ideal, but said it’s far from unique. For instance, a similar arrangement was made in the Essex County town of Crown Point when the justice there was charged with possession of stolen property.
In October, Justice Arthur Miclette was accused of stealing tools from his former job at the Champlain Valley Technical Educational Center. Miclette stepped aside as justice until the charges against him were dropped in February.
“When that issue was resolved, that judge came back to the bench,” Caruso said.
Reynolds’ temporary leave was the first of several actions set in motion by the string of legal conflicts created by his arrest. The justice also filed paperwork for a change of venue, meaning the case will be transferred out of his court to another in Schenectady County, possibly before his scheduled arraignment on Wednesday.
County Judge Karen Drago will assign the case. Caruso said the matter will likely be moved to Scotia, Glenville or Niskayuna, instead of the courts closer to Princetown.
The case also will require a special prosecutor. Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney intends to recuse his office from the matter because of a conflict.
“It’s a conflict of interest for us to have to prosecute a case against a judge we literally have to appear before,” he said.