- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2000

A Maryland judicial commission has issued a warning to a Montgomery County judge who partially blamed an 11-year-old for being sexually assaulted, saying, "it takes two to tango."

Details of the Commission on Judicial Disabilities' warning to Circuit Judge Durke G. Thompson were not available because disciplinary matters involving judges are kept confidential under state law.

The Montgomery County chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) filed a complaint against Judge Thompson in January after he made the "tango" remark in sentencing a 24-year-old man to 18 months in prison and three years probation for sexually molesting the 11-year-old girl.

In its official complaint, the NOW chapter accused Judge Thompson of exhibiting a pattern of bias against women and victims' rights.

The judicial commission disagreed and dismissed the NOW complaint, but added its written warning.

"While MC NOW applauds the commission's finding that Judge Thompson engaged in sanctionable conduct, we are seriously troubled by the commission's choice of remedy a warning," said Josey Wells, president of the local NOW chapter.

Women's groups, children's advocates and prosecutors, among others, sharply criticized Judge Thompson for his comment in sentencing Vladimir Chacon-Bonilla for molesting the Rockville girl, who told police she met him in an Internet chat room and twice had sexual relations with him.

The judge told the victim's family the girl bore some responsibility for what had happened.

"I think the old adage that it takes two to tango is true here," he said, noting that the preteen girl invited the then-23-year-old Alexandria, Va. man into her home.

Judge Thompson, whom former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed to the Circuit Court in 1994, later apologized for his remark.

The Commission on Judicial Disabilities is an 11-member board appointed by the governor and composed of three judges, three lawyers and five members of the public.

After investigating a formal complaint, the commission can opt among several courses of action, from dismissing the complaint to recommending a judge's removal from the bench.

Under Maryland law, the commission and its members must keep all matters confidential, said Steve Lemmey, the panel's investigative counsel.

Judge Thompson did not return phone calls to his chambers.

The commission's confidentiality rule prevents even those who lodge complaints against judges from knowing the outcome of its disciplinary decisions.

"We're not allowed any of that information," said Ms. Wells. "It will be as though the complaint never existed."

The Montgomery County Victim Services Advisory Board and the Maryland General Assembly's women's caucus followed Montgomery County NOW with similar complaints against Judge Thompson.

Several individuals also have filed complaints.

"At this point, we're waiting [before taking more action]. There are still complaints that have not been answered or addressed," Ms. Wells said.

The Women Legislators of Maryland asked the judicial commission to investigate Judge Thompson's past decisions and statements, noting his "reported pattern of similar bias in other rape and sexual assault cases."

The women's caucus asked the review board to specifically investigate the case of the State vs. Andre Kelley.

In January 1998, Judge Thompson sentenced former Einstein High School coach Andre Kelley to 17 years in prison, suspending all but six months with three years of probation for sexually abusing five students.

NOW is lobbying members of the General Assembly about reforming the commission and its procedures, Ms. Wells said.

"If the legal community doesn't start to monitor itself … a lot of people will lose faith," she said. "The public has a right to know how [judges] are doing their job."

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