Community activist Darnell Jackson Sr. says he is filing a judicial conduct complaint against Buffalo City Court Judge Betty Calvo-Torres, accusing her of misusing her powers as a judge to have him arrested on a charge of second-degree aggravated harassment earlier this month.
Jackson says a posting he sent to her Facebook page as her “friend” was misinterpreted by the judge and was not, as she claims, meant to be annoying, but rather as a comment laced with spiritual overtones.
Buffalo police have alleged Jackson, 55, of Barthel Street, called the judge “ugly” and that he implied he seeks revenge against her.
A conflict between Jackson and Calvo-Torres apparently took place last September during proceedings in which she was dismissing a charge of criminal possession of a weapon against him in her courtroom. The judge reportedly informed Jackson his courtroom demeanor was unacceptable.
Several weeks later, he said he sent this posting to the judge’s Facebook page: “Can’t believe how rude you were to me, after I supported you, God don’t like ugly ... Have a blessed holiday season ’cause I will.”
Jackson explained that the reference to “ugly” meant “God does not like ugly stuff that you do” and had nothing do with her physical appearance.
As for the revenge comment, he said, it meant “karma” and “that when the revenge comes back to you and people treat you ugly, how will you feel?”
He said he is taking the unusual step of filing the complaint with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct “because I think she is abusing her power as well as her connections to have me arrested. I don’t want that to happen to other people.”
Calvo-Torres could not be reached to comment.
Scott Lupiani, Jackson’s attorney, pointed out that Jackson and Calvo-Torres were Facebook “friends” and that there is a history between them.
“There is more to this story with Judge Calvo-Torres and Mr. Jackson. It’s my understanding that several years ago when Mr. Jackson was a columnist for The Challenger, he wrote a piece questioning the appointment of Judge Calvo-Torres by Mayor [Byron W.] Brown,” Lupiani said.
Jackson, in that column in the East Side newspaper, said he was questioning why the mayor had made three judicial appointments and none of the appointees were black. He feels that observation may have annoyed Calvo-Torres, setting the stage for the courtroom conflict.
As for the aggravated harassment charge, a misdemeanor, Jackson said he intends to go to trial. Where the trial will take place remains uncertain.
All of the judges in Buffalo City Court have recused themselves from the case because Calvo-Torres is a colleague and, if they were to preside over the case, it would create an appearance of impropriety, according to Chief City Court Judge Thomas P. Amodeo. An Erie County Court judge, he said, will have to decide where to transfer the case and it will have to be to another city court in the county, which means either the City of Tonawanda or Lackawanna. A decision on which court will handle the case is expected at some point after the new year.
Jackson objects to this. He says he wants the trial to take place in Buffalo.
“I want my case held in Buffalo, right where I was arrested. I want a jury of my peers,” Jackson said. “I think they should appoint a special judge.”