- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

PERRY, Okla. (AP) - A judge won’t recuse himself from a case linked to the school child abuse scandal in Perry, even though his daughter-in-law works with the defendants.

Judge Nikki G. Leach on Thursday denied prosecutors’ request to remove himself from the case involving Upper Elementary School math teacher Jeffrey Sullins, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/2mANhYd ) reported.

Sullins and the school’s principal, Kenda Miller, are charged with misdemeanors for allegedly failing to promptly report child abuse after several girls levied accusations against teaching assistant Arnold Cowen. Cowen, 85, is now facing 18 counts of lewd or indecent proposals or acts on a child, along with one count of child pornography.

Prosecutors allege that Leach’s daughter-in-law “directly recruited” Cowen to volunteer at the school. The judge’s daughter-in-law, Lucinda Leach, teaches fourth-grade science and social studies at the elementary school.

Prosecutors also argued that the judge has shown bias toward Sullins. And that if Sullins is found guilty, it could directly impact the school district’s finances where the judge’s daughter-in-law works.

“I don’t care. This is not a civil case, this is a criminal case and therefore, that’s not a reason why I would recuse,” the judge said. “Generally, I don’t care about the financial impact of criminal cases anyway.”

An attorney for the seven girls in the case said he was “shocked and amazed” by what was revealed in the prosecution’s motion.

“We had no idea that it was the judge’s own daughter-in-law that had recruited a now-known serial child molester to come work at Perry Public Schools,” attorney Cameron Spradling said.

Leach has recused himself from Cowen’s case, but said he doesn’t need to do so for Sullivan’s case.

A similar recusal request is pending in Miller’s case. Miller is expected to appear in court March 23.

___

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


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