NY judge approves his own pistol permit, accidentally discharges the weapon in his chambers.

A Tioga County judge has been censured by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct for accidentally firing a weapon in his chambers at the courthouse and for approving his own pistol permit.

Judge Vincent Sgueglia, the sole licensing officer in Tioga County, was unaware that he could not approve his own pistol permit, according to a news release from the commission.

The commission found that Sgueglia should not have used his decision-making authority for his own benefit, noting the permit has no restrictions and covers 20 pistols.

The misconduct was compounded, the ruling stated, when Sgueglia accidentally discharged a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, while attempting to repair it, in his chambers during a break in court proceedings on Jan. 21, 2010.

No one was hurt by the bullet that lodged in a wall, though other court officials were in rooms nearby, the ruling stated, adding Tioga County Sheriff’s investigators determined it was an accident.

Sgueglia, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 this year and whose term in office ends on Dec. 31, 2012, agreed to the censure and stipulated not to serve as a judicial hearing officer after leaving the bench. He first took judicial office in 1993 and had not been disciplined for judicial misconduct previously.

The commission notes that Sgueglia wasn’t ticketed or summoned for violating a local ordinance regulating discharge of firearms. Authorities also didn’t take actions to revoke or amend his pistol permit as a result of the 2010 incident.

The Tioga County sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices didn’t respond Monday to requests for comment on the commission’s report, which said that Sgueglia’s position as a judge had no influence on the investigation.

Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said in a prepared statement that a judge must defer to another judge when there is an obvious conflict, such as a court matter involving a judge directly or a relative.

“To his credit, Judge Sgueglia readily acknowledged this principle and agreed that he should be censured for violating it and for his carelessness in repairing and firing a weapon in the courthouse. We are lucky and grateful that no one was injured,” he said.

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