Former Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo agreed not to seek or accept judicial office for four years in a deal reached Wednesday with the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline regarding his 2009 misdemeanor domestic battery conviction.
Abbatangelo pleaded no contest to the charge after an incident involving his now ex-wife, Susan, at their former home in 2008. The agreement also calls for public censure.
Las Vegas police investigated and submitted a request for prosecution alleging Abbatangelo choked Susan Abbatangelo during a fight. She told police the abuse had occurred over a two-year period.
The Abbatangelos were married for 14 years before divorcing in 2010. In a temporary restraining order Susan Abbatangelo filed the day of the incident, she alleged the judge shoved her against the wall and spat into her face. She alleged he dragged her by her hair. There was evidence of injury to her neck area, police said.
"This was an issue that I knew would have consequences," Tony Abbatangelo said Wednesday. "I knew when I (pleaded) no contest that, obviously, this was going to be an issue for my family and my career."
The no contest plea in the domestic violence case, entered in February 2009, allowed Abbatangelo to avoid pleading guilty while acknowledging the state can prove its case. Such pleas are treated the same as guilty pleas in sentencing matters. Abbatangelo was sentenced to spend two days in jail and ordered to perform community service and attend six months of domestic violence classes.
He was allowed to spend his jail sentence on house arrest.
He said the agreement brings "closure" to a case that derailed a judgeship that began in 1993. He lost a re-election bid to Janiece Marshall last November.
The stipulation was hammered out between Abbatangelo’s attorney, Anthony Sgro, and the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline.
"We’re just glad Tony can put this behind him," said Sgro, who called the deal thoughtful and fair. "Both sides worked diligently to close this chapter, and now Tony has embarked on a new career."
The commission could have fined Abbatangelo, Sgro said, or banned him from the bench for life. His license to practice law was probably never in danger.
"The fact they didn’t do something more serious says a lot about the case," Sgro said.
Abbatangelo, 45, has returned to criminal defense work since leaving the bench. He doesn’t rule out another run for office, but he said he’s excited about being in private practice.
"I took a pretty big pay cut to become a judge," he said. "I want to provide for my family. This will let us put this behind us, finally."
The incident occurred Nov. 12, 2008. He has never discussed the circumstances of the case, but Abbatangelo conceded in the agreement that the evidence against him is "clear and convincing."
"People who know me know I’m not like that. They know I’m not a violent person. I’m usually very happy," he said, adding that he doesn’t minimize the seriousness of domestic violence. "No offense to the media, but I kept my head down. I knew it was a serious social issue, but I couldn’t talk about it."
The relationship with his wife had deteriorated by the end of 2008, he said, but the two have learned to set differences aside for the sake of the children. "I never said anything because I didn’t want to drag my children or my ex-wife through the mud," Abbatangelo said.
He said he has learned from the incident and has put it behind him. " My ex-wife and me are just trying to be the best parents we can be."
Contact Doug McMurdo at email@example.com or 702-224-5512.