AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County Criminal Court Judge Chantal Eldridge was recused from a sexual assault case Friday after the state argued she refused “to proceed with the punishment phase” of a trial.
Visiting judge Dan Mills agreed with the state in his ruling.
He said that when he looks at the totality of the circumstances, “I think the state has proved” that a reasonable person might question Judge Eldridge’s impartiality.
In January, Byron Montiel-Flores was found guilty of sexual assault by a Travis County jury but had yet to be formally sentenced.
“The guilty verdict in this case was more than seven months ago,” Lisa Stewart with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, representing the state, said in court Friday.
Moreover, Stewart said Judge Eldridge “has a personal bias” in terms of sexual assault.
In their original motion to get Judge Eldridge off the case, the state questioned her impartiality because she was previously accused of sexual assault, stemming from a foreign exchange student who lived with her in 2006. A Travis County grand jury declined to indict her in August 2018.
Moreover, she also employs a registered sex offender in her courtroom, which was also brought up in court Friday.
Defense lawyer Jon Evans argued in court that the judge’s actions did not rise to the level of recusal.
“A recusal is a horrible stamp to put on a judge and should be an extreme measure,” Evans said.
As part of his argument, Evans said that the state’s motion to recuse Judge Eldridge wasn’t timely, but Stewart countered that asking to recuse a judge is not to be a “knee jerk” reaction.
Judge Eldridge was not at Friday’s hearing. She’s been on the bench since January 2019.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 17.