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Richards vacates decision to step aside, awaits possible DA disqualification

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CANTON — A St. Lawrence County judge may still remove himself from all cases handled by District Attorney Mary E. Rain.

Ms. Rain filed an application in St. Lawrence County Court on Monday seeking to have County Judge Jerome J. Richards disqualify himself from all cases involving her office.

Ms. Rain’s application suggests Judge Richards cannot be “detached and neutral” in cases involving her office in light of his decision last Thursday to disqualify himself from all proceedings involving Ms. Rain’s investigations into allegations that the county used forfeiture money illegally and omitted a grant application to fund positions in the district attorney’s office.

After a brief recess Monday following Ms. Rain’s request, Judge Richards returned to the bench, denying Ms. Rain her application. In a written decision dated Wednesday, Judge Richards said he was now vacating that denial as a result of an order to show cause issued Tuesday by Judge Vito C. Caruso, the administrative judge for the Fourth Judicial District, which gives Ms. Rain until July 24 to explain why she should not be disqualified in her probe of the county and why a special district attorney should not be appointed.

“…Should Judge Caruso appoint a special prosecutor, the district attorney’s request will become moot,” Judge Richards wrote.

If Judge Caruso decides not to appoint a special prosecutor, Judge Richards wrote that Ms. Rain could move forward with her application seeking his recusal.

“I will thereafter consider whether recusal is appropriate under the circumstances,” Judge Richards wrote.

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