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A Queens man convicted of murder accused a New York Supreme Court justice Tuesday of coaching a prosecutor before his trial, not long after the man’s first conviction was dismissed because another prosecutor had lied to the judge. According to papers filed Tuesday in state Supreme Court, Queens Justice Jaime A. Rios allegedly had an ex parte discussion with Assistant District Attorney Eugene Reibstein, in which the judge identified several weaknesses in the prosecution’s case during the first trial of Tyrone Johnson. A spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown dismissed the allegations, saying they were based on the complaint from a disgruntled former law clerk who was fired by Rios. The former law clerk, Judith B. Memblatt, has filed a federal civil rights action against the judge in the Eastern District of New York. “We are satisfied that the defendant’s conviction was in all respects properly obtained and that the defendant’s motion is devoid of merit,” Brown’s office said in an e-mail statement. At the time the alleged ex parte discussion occurred, Johnson was awaiting retrial on charges that he murdered a nightclub owner. His first conviction, in 2002, was thrown out after a former assistant district attorney, Claude Stuart, lied to Rios about the whereabouts of a potential witness. As a result, Brown demoted Stuart and did not contest a motion to vacate the conviction. Stuart later resigned from the office, and he recently was suspended from the practice of law for three years by the Appellate Division, 2nd Department. Before Johnson went on trial a second time, Rios allegedly had a 20-minute meeting with Reibstein, the substance of which was overheard by Rios’ former law clerk, Memblatt, who is an attorney. Memblatt took notes regarding the conversation on Post-It notes, according to Johnson’s complaint. Nearly a year later, after Rios informed her that he was firing her, she filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Memblatt claimed Rios told Reibstein that evidence in Johnson’s first trial was inconsistent, specifically regarding various cars at the crime scene. After Johnson was convicted a second time in July 2003, Memblatt said, Rios had another discussion with Reibstein, in which he told the prosecutor the conviction would have to be reversed on appeal because of improper remarks in Reibstein’s summation. Memblatt also alleges Rios fired her because she had protested against an alleged affair Rios was having with another Queens prosecutor, Meryl A. Lutsky. Memblatt said the affair was a conflict of interest. Brown’s office would not comment on the alleged affair, other than to say Lutsky had been “impugned” by the allegations and that she had no involvement in Johnson’s case, as she had left the office before Johnson’s arrest. Rios, who was transferred from Supreme Criminal Court to Supreme Civil Court in 2003, has declined to comment on any of the allegations, according to a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration. Ron Kuby, Johnson’s attorney, said Rios had acted as a stealth prosecutor and called his conduct “outrageously improper.” “He has no business sitting on any court in this country,” Kuby said. In an interview, Memblatt said she was “absolutely certain” of what she heard from Rios in his conversation with Reibstein. Asked about the delay in filing her complaint, she said, “I thought it was more likely that I would simply be dismissed if I brought it up at the time.” Memblatt’s complaint likely led to a private letter of caution from the conduct commission, though that caution may have involved something other than the alleged ex parte conversation. Memblatt said she filed a second complaint against the judge and was told by the commission that it was consolidated with her first one. The second complaint questioned whether the judge improperly purchased tickets to political events and sent a letter, on court stationery, to a Las Vegas hotel, allegedly explaining that he would soon visit and casually inquiring about what perks the hotel might offer. Concerning Memblatt’s delay in filing the complaint until she lost her job, Kuby said, “It strikes me as unlikely that an attorney would submit a perjurious affidavit because she is upset about losing her job.” Letters of caution are confidential, but the commission has a long-standing practice of informing complainants if their allegations are dismissed. Memblatt received a letter from the commission thanking her for her complaint and saying it had taken “appropriate action.” The letter was filed as an exhibit in Johnson’s motion for a new trial. Rios was not publicly admonished or censored, leaving a private letter of caution as the only other possible reprimand. The commission did not single out any specific incident as noteworthy. Robert H. Tembeckjian, the commission’s administrator and counsel, declined to comment on any complaint against Justice Rios. Rios is a former deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department and a former assistant district attorney in Brooklyn. He first entered the judicial system in 1985, when he was appointed to the Housing Court. He was elected to Civil Court in 1994 and then to Supreme Court in 1995. Along with his duties on the Supreme Civil Court bench, he also sits on appellate panels for the Appellate Term, 2nd and 11th Judicial Districts. His term ends in 2008.

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