Sitting Judge Testifies In Trial Of Attorney Accused Of Sex Crimes
It was an extraordinary day in an already sensational case, as a sitting judge was called to testify in the case of a lawyer accused of sexually assaulting clients and mothers of clients.
Javier Armengau is charged with 18 counts involving five different women.
One of Armengau's accusers, the mother of a client, says he bragged to her that he had Judge Richard Frye in his pocket, and even suggested she perform a sex act on the judge to get favorable treatment in her son's case.
On Wednesday, in contentious, emotional testimony, the judge told his side of the story.
It is a case that has the Franklin County Courthouse buzzing: a man who makes a living defending others now a defendant, with a man who presides over trials called as a witness in one.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye testified he has a "strictly business" relationship with Javier Armengau.
"Judge would you consider yourself to be in Mr. Armengau's pocket?” asked defense attorney Frederick Benton.
“No sir,” Frye responded.
“Would you consider yourself to be controlled by Mr. Armengau?” asked Benton.
“No sir." Frye said again.
Frye acknowledged visiting Armengau's home once, for a fundraiser Armengau hosted for Frye's election campaign.
But he denied ever being at Armengau's South High Street law office, where one of Armengau's accusers says Armengau introduced a man as Frye, and told her she should perform a sex act on him.
Frye says the first he heard of the allegation was last May, when a BCI agent showed him the woman's statement.
“So I read it over,” said Frye, “And it said in substance that I was present when Mr. Armengau encouraged her to have a sex act with me in his office. I handed it back to the gentleman and said ‘she's crazy.’"
Frye presided over three cases involving the woman's son, who was charged with two cases of sexual contact with a minor, and burglary.
He admits she stood out to him in court.
"Is there anything you recall about his mother as a result of her attending some of these hearings?” asked Benton.
“I recall one instance where I made a comment after we were done in court to Mr. Armengau about an attractive woman sitting in the back of the room and whether she worked for Mr. Armengau. He said ‘Oh no, that's (redacted)’s mother.’"
Frye called his comment "rather stupid," but denied any inappropriate conduct, or any influence by Armengau in how he handled the cases before him.
Appearing emotional, he blasted prosecutors for involving him publicly in what he called a “preposterous” allegation.
"All we trade on as trial judges is our reputation for fairness and hard work and trying to do justice down here. And to have any judge thrown out as a potential recipient of a bribe, when nothing of the sort happened...seems to me to be reckless. And improper."
Jurors also heard from witnesses who challenged the stories of Armengau's accusers.
One, a former assistant of his who says one accuser appeared completely fine after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by Armengau, saying thank you and goodnight to the assistant as she left his office.
The closing witness Wednesday was a public defender who says she was with one of the accusers in the courthouse when the accuser claims Armengau raped her.
The public defender testified she didn't see Armengau there.
Testimony continues Thursday.
READ: Previous stories