ROCHESTER, N.Y. — When asked why she agreed to a plea deal, Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio displayed her trademark candor.
“I pleaded guilty to get out of jail,” she said. “Who doesn’t plead guilty to get out of jail? Jail sucks.”
Astacio pleaded guilty to a probation violation in court Monday morning for failing to pay for and wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet.
Astacio agreed to plead guilty to one of her violations – admitting to using foot cream that had alcohol in it — in exchange for a sentence of time served. All her other violations have been dropped.
She was joined in court Monday by Bridget Field, an attorney who has worked with Astacio previously.
“The goal is to move forward and hopefully deal with whatever we need to deal with here and stop having to come back,” said prosecutor Jim Ritts. “The goal is to move forward as it relates to the rehabilitation, what do we need to do to make sure this isn’t reoccurring on an ongoing basis as it appears to have been over the last few months.”
Later, on a Facebook post, Astacio said in part:
"I was given the choice of pleading guilty to something I've made it abundantly clear I'm not guilty of, or remaining in jail over the holidays. If it we're just me, I would've been in lcj with the homies, but as a mother, I couldn't do that to my children."
Astacio is set to appear in court again on December 1.
The judge has not heard cases since her DWI conviction for drunk driving, six months after a February 2016 crash on Interstate 490 on Rochester's west side. One condition of that conviction was that she couldn't drink alcohol, and had to comply with random judge-ordered urine tests.
When the ignition interlock device on Astacio's car registered a high blood-alcohol reading at the end of April 2017, Judge Stephen Aronson ordered another test. Astacio was out of the country, visiting Thailand, living with monks and practicing meditation. She was jailed, given probation over her objections, and ordered to wear the alcohol-monitoring device.
Astacio was then accused of going to Del Lago Resort and Casino in Seneca County, two counties away, in September 2017, without giving her probation officer proper notification. She was then released from behind bars until this most recent appearance.
In frequent appearances in and outside court, stemming back months, Astacio made comments which include:
- "I think that everything happens for a reason, including going to jail twice."
- "I don't know if you can possibly fathom what this negative attention has done to my life. To be known as #DrunkJudge, as opposed to, a teen mom who overcame the odds, as opposed to the youngest city court judge elected, as opposed to the first Hispanic female on the bench."
- and "The media has tried to break me."
Astacio has received counsel from three lawyers. Well-known DWI attorney Ed Fiandach, the first, was taken aback at the amount of attention the case received, before Astacio fired him from her jail cell. He was replaced by Mark Young and most recently, New York City-based Greg Salmon, who was granted a request to get taken off the case.
Astacio is still collecting a $174,000 per year salary. Only the state Judicial Conduct Commission can remove a judge or remove their salary.
Her case has and continues to garner extensive media attention and public interest, with Astacio herself thanking supporters through social media and telling reporters that her critics are not her constituents and live outside of the City of Rochester.