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Justice pleads guilty to harassing wife

Somerset Town Justice Jeffery P. Wick pleaded guilty Wednesday to harassment of his wife. Now it's up to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct to decide whether he will remain on the bench.

Wick, 31, appeared before Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza and admitted to harassment, a violation carrying a maximum 15-day jail sentence, for repeatedly threatening and physically abusing his wife, Andrea L. Wick, 31, between February and December 2005.

Wick was arrested Dec. 9 and charged with misdemeanor counts of harassment and menacing, as his wife gave sheriff's deputies a seven-page statement cataloging a long series of domestic incidents.

Three days later, Wick was arrested again and charged with second-degree criminal contempt of court, another misdemeanor, after allegedly returning to the couple's Quaker Road home in violation of a court order of protection imposed at his arraignment on the first arrest by new Town Justice Bruce Barnes.

Wick allegedly asked his wife to drop the charges and tried to make arrangements to see the couple's four children, all under age 9. Sperrazza, who handled the case in the county's new integrated domestic violence court, granted Wick an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, meaning the charge will be dropped if he stays out of trouble for a year.

Sperrazza issued a "no offensive contact" order of protection for Andrea Wick. Her husband, who said he now lives alone on Lower Lake Road, must continue the psychological counseling he has received every two weeks for the last 15 months.

Sperrazza said she might assign Wick to a "batterers' program" if she hears of any trouble before sentencing, which she scheduled for April 18.

Andrea Wick said she doesn't anticipate any more trouble from her husband "as long as he's undergoing counseling."

Erie County Assistant District Attorney Lisa Bloch-Rodwin, who handled the case after the Niagara County district attorney's office backed out, said the plea bargain was "done after extensive consultation with [Andrea Wick]. It's what she wants."

Wick, a town justice since winning the 2003 election, walked past a reporter seeking comment, as did his attorney, Gerald S. Sacca. In court, Sacca told Sperrazza, "Things are very much under control."

As for Wick's future as a judge, Bloch-Rodwin said, "I know the investigation [by the Commission on Judicial Conduct] has already begun."

Commission counsel John J. Postel said the law forbids him from confirming that, but he said in any case, "There's a range of discipline, beginning with a private letter of caution. There are three public disciplines: admonition, censure or removal. It depends not only on the specific conviction but on the underlying conduct."

Asked when action might be taken on Wick's case, Postel said, "We're a small office. It doesn't happen overnight."


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