- Associated Press - Friday, June 2, 2017

PERRY, Okla. (AP) - An Oklahoma judge won’t recuse himself from a Perry school child abuse case for a second time, even though his daughter-in-law worked with the defendants.

Noble County Judge Nikki G. Leach denied District Attorney Brian Hermanson’s request to remove himself at a hearing Wednesday for former Upper Elementary School principal Kenda Miller, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/2smaoFL ) reported.

Leach previously denied a similar motion in March for former math teacher Jeffrey Sullins.

Miller and Sullins are charged with misdemeanors for allegedly failing to promptly report child abuse after several girls levied accusations against teaching assistant Arnold Cowen. Cowen is now facing 18 counts of lewd or indecent proposals or acts on a child.

Prosecutors said Leach’s daughter-in-law “directly recruited” Cowen to volunteer at the school, and that the judge has shown bias to Sullins and Miller.

But Miller’s attorney, Cheryl Ramsey, said she didn’t see a need for the judge to recuse himself.

“He does not know Miss Miller at all,” Ramsey said.

The judge’s daughter-in-law, Lucinda Leach, teaches fourth-grade science and social studies at the elementary school.

Lucinda Leach testified Wednesday that Cowen volunteered in her classroom about four years before the 2016-17 year. She said after receiving permission to find a volunteer she asked a church secretary to email congregation members to weigh interest.

“I don’t think that’s recruiting,” the judge said. “I think it’s far from it.”

Hermanson said he plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Judge Leach did recuse himself from Cowen’s case. Another judge has ordered Cowen to stand trial.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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