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PA Judge, 70, Traded Justice for Sex?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 17, 2011 6:50 AM

Pennsylvania state judge Ross Cioppa is facing charges of bribery, indecent assault and official oppression. Judge Cioppa is accused of demanding sexual favors from female defendants in exchange for favorable treatment.

The seasoned judicial veteran, age 70, was implicated after an investigation following complaints over Judge Cioppa's conduct.

In two separate incidents, he is accused of approaching female defendants in landlord-tenant disputes. Each time, he asked them for sexual favors. He told them he would be more favorable to their case if they complied.

The charges of indecent assault and official oppression are both misdemeanors under state law.

Why is this not a harsher charge of aggravated indecent assault?

Under Pennsylvania law, indecent assault occurs when a person has "indecent contact" with the victim without their consent. This is defined as any touching of the intimate parts of the victim for the purpose of sexual pleasure.

Indecent assault is typically a misdemeanor. But it can rise to a felony level if this isn't the first time the defendant has committed the crime. It can also be a felony if the indecent assault was committed by touching the defendant's intimate parts with the victim's.

Aggravated indecent assault, which is a felony, requires more than touching. A person is guilty of this crime if they penetrate the victim in some way. Since Judge Cioppa is not accused of penetration, his actions don't amount to aggravated indecent assault.

What's next for Judge Cioppa? It seems the investigation is not over. Authorities don't plan on reviewing all of Ross Cioppa's previous cases. However, they say that anybody who feels that they have been wronged by the state judge should come forward.

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