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NBC 10 I-Team: Day two of disciplinary hearing for RI judge

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A local judge faces complaints over how he treats people in the courtroom.

That was the focus of day two in the hearing of Judge Rafael Ovalles.

Ovalles is facing complaints, including harassing women at work, having his hand in his unzipped pants in his office, sleeping on his desk, and treating people poorly.

A panel of judges and lawyers from the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline is hearing the case that is expected to last weeks.

Ovalles denies the allegations.

His lawyers say he's a demanding judge.

They say there is no evidence to support any of the allegations against him.

However, Public Defender Rebecca Aitchison testified Tuesday, "The judge was very, in my opinion, abusive towards me, specifically verbally and in his actions."

Aitchison says, unlike any other judge, Ovalles often criticized her in court and told her not to leave the courtroom without permission.

"Judge Ovalles told me I was to stay in my seat without permission and that's why I had to ask, I had to stand up in open court and ask to use the bathroom," Aitchison testified.

Ovalles' lawyer pointed out that other attorneys would ask the judge for permission to leave the courtroom.

The situation reached the point where Aitchison's bosses had meetings with Ovalles, and the public defender’s office changed which lawyer would be in Ovalles' courtroom, said John Lovoi, who was the Chief Criminal Public Defender at the time.

Lovoi testified, "The decision was made to make sure that a male attorney was going to be replacing her."

Public defenders also complained about how Ovalles handled cases.

"It slowed down the entire judicial process and could extremely adversely affect my clients," Andrew McElroy testified.

Public Defender Megan Jackson said she once complained to Ovalles that he always took her cases last.

Jackson testified that Ovalles' response was, "That he was going to consider holding me in contempt."
Several court workers claim Ovalles spoke to them about their eye contact with him.

Public Defender Angela Yingling testified Ovalles once talked to her, “to tell me I had to work on my eye contact and that I blinked too much."

Courtroom Sheriff Jason Kloc testified, "He told me you need to make more eye contact with me."

After months of our reporting on the case, Judge Ovalles filed a civil lawsuit against the I-Team's Parker Gavigan, NBC 10 and our parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Ovalles claims defamation and invasion of privacy.

NBC 10 and Sinclair have filed a counterclaim, alleging Ovalles abused Rhode Island's judicial investigation process for wrongful purposes, and to intimidate witnesses.

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NBC 10 I-Team: Day two of disciplinary hearing for RI judge

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NBC 10 I-Team: Day two of disciplinary hearing for RI judge


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