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Judge's Ex Faces Charges of Stalking D.C. MagistrateIn response, a misconduct complaint accuses the judge of using the U.S. Marshals Service to intimidate her former girlfriend
A 39-year-old convicted felon who dated a District of Columbia Superior Court magistrate judge is charged with stalking the judge and breaking into her Washington home. D.C. police say after Taylar Nuevelle and Magistrate Judge Janet Albert ended their yearlong relationship in September 2008, Nuevelle sent harassing text messages and e-mails to the judge for several weeks. The broken relationship has produced not only the criminal charges but also a civil suit and an ethics complaint against the judge.
The National Law Journal2009-05-15 12:00:00 AM
A 39-year-old convicted felon who dated a District of Columbia Superior Court magistrate judge is charged with stalking the judge and breaking into her Washington home.
D.C. police say after Taylar Nuevelle and Magistrate Judge Janet Albert ended their yearlong relationship in early September 2008, Nuevelle sent harassing text messages and e-mails to the judge for several weeks. Nuevelle implied she wanted to use private information to destroy Albert's reputation, according to a police affidavit.
Albert found her former girlfriend unconscious in Albert's attic on Sept. 13, according to police reports. The judge also found two handwritten suicide notes that expressed love and remorse.
On April 21, a grand jury indicted Nuevelle in D.C. Superior Court on charges of stalking, burglary with the intent to stalk and unlawful entry. Prosecutors said in charging documents that Albert was in fear for her life. Arraignment is scheduled for May 19. The burglary charge alone carries a possible sentence of two to 15 years in prison. Nuevelle, who serves on the board of directors at All Souls Church, Unitarian, declined to comment through her lawyer.
Albert, 44, has been a magistrate on the District's Family Court since 2003 and presides over child abuse and neglect cases. The broken relationship has produced not only the criminal charges but also a civil suit and an ethics complaint against the judge.
Nuevelle's lawyer, D.C. solo practitioner A. Kevin Fahey, questions the timing of criminal charges, saying that Albert delayed reporting the alleged break-in for two weeks and that police only obtained an arrest warrant for Nuevelle after his client filed a misconduct complaint against the judge on Oct. 17, 2008. The complaint accuses Albert of, among other things, using the U.S. Marshals Service to intimidate Nuevelle.
"I've never seen anything like this in a typical domestic case," Fahey said. "The bottom line here, this is an overreaching of government power." Fahey said the criminal charges are without merit.
Handling the matters involving one of their colleagues has been tricky for the local bench. Two judges have already recused themselves from dealing with parts of the clash between Albert and Nuevelle. The latest, Judge Lynn Leibovitz, declined to hear the criminal case on May 5; Judge Russell Canan has been tapped to preside. In the civil case, Judge Judith Retchin recused and Judge Judith Macaluso was assigned.
The first case to hit the courts was the civil lawsuit, filed on Oct. 6. Nuevelle sued Albert to recover property from the Northwest Washington house where Nuevelle said she was a caretaker for the judge's adopted son. A motion to dismiss is pending.
Meanwhile in September, after the alleged break-in, Albert contacted a deputy U.S. marshal, who conducted a security assessment and determined that the judge's life was not in danger, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service. The marshal suggested Albert get in touch with police.
About a month passed before D.C. police obtained a search warrant for Nuevelle's apartment to seize evidence related to stalking. Getting the warrant wasn't easy. The first judge who reviewed police papers, Senior Judge Eugene Hamilton, deemed the evidence insufficient to support a search, police reports show.
Five days later, Senior Judge Susan Winfield approved the warrant. Prosecutors won't say what new information, if any, was presented to Winfield.
A lieutenant, three detectives and four patrol officers participated in a 40-minute search of Nuevelle's apartment on Oct. 30, police reports show. The police seized, among other things, a cell phone, two cameras, a photograph and "assorted personal papers."
Nuevelle was arrested on Nov. 3 and released the same day on her own recognizance. She was ordered to stay away from Albert. Superior Court Judge Robert Morin found probable cause to bring charges at a Nov. 24 hearing.
Morin noted in court that a supervising judge had asked him whether he wished to recuse himself. Morin said he declined. "I'm not sure I could recognize [Albert] without some difficulty," he said in court.
Albert, a former federal prosecutor in the District, declined to discuss her relationship with Nuevelle. Her lawyer, District of Columbia Bar president Robert Spagnoletti, a partner at Schertler & Onorato, declined to comment on the Nuevelle indictment.
At the Nov. 24 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah McClellan said Albert's job is relevant as to why she "may not have wanted to initially bring this to the attention of law enforcement." McClellan did not elaborate.
Prosecutors declined to talk about the merits of the criminal case against Nuevelle. The ethics complaint is being investigated by Superior Court's Committee on the Selection and Tenure of Magistrate Judges.
In 2003, Nuevelle pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to criminal contempt and lying to obtain a passport; a parental kidnapping charge was dropped in a deal. Nuevelle was sentenced to three years of probation, which she had completed before she and Albert began dating.