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Hamilton County judge admits to harassing female coworker with sexually explicit Facebook messages

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Posted at 12:32 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 19:45:05-04

CINCINNATI — A longtime Hamilton County judge admitted to harassing a female coworker by repeatedly asking her on a date, calling her on her personal cell phone and sending her dozens of Facebook messages with sexually explicit content.

The woman, identified in documents only as Jane Doe, submitted a misconduct complaint to the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct on March 22. The judge, Theodore Newton Berry, admitted nearly all of her allegations were true in an answer filed the following day.

The Ohio Supreme Court will decide what happens next.

In her complaint, Doe says her conversations with Berry — who has overseen cases in Hamilton County since 2005 — began with him adding her as a friend on Facebook and escalated into repeated exhortations for her to visit his office in person, accusing her of “lurking” when she did not respond.

In one unanswered message, he wrote: “Hey come down to visit today or soon. I may have an 'Offer you can’t Refuse'!!”

Although Doe worked at the Hamilton County Municipal Court, she was not assigned to Berry’s courtroom and the pair did not interact professionally on a day-to-day basis.

Berry eventually requested Doe’s cell phone number through Facebook. According to her complaint, “Doe felt that because (Berry) was a judge, she could not refuse to give him her personal cell phone number.”

Doe alleges he repeatedly called and texted her despite her lack of responses.

“On one occasion, (Berry) called Jane Doe on a Saturday,” according to her complaint. “During the call, (Berry) sounded intoxicated, used profanity and talked about his divorce. He also asked Jane Doe to lunch, but she declined his invitation.”

The call is the only part of the complaint that Berry contested in his response. He admitted to talking about his divorce and asking Doe to lunch but denied that he had been intoxicated at the time.

According to the complaint, Berry followed up with two Facebook messages: One asking her to visit him in his office, another asking her to lunch again.

She did not respond. He messaged her 72 more times on Facebook, usually to no response, often sending her links to sexually explicit standup comedy routines — Tiffany Haddish's “How to Build a Resume for a Hoe” among them — and political posts calling for the removal of then-President Donald Trump.

Doe finally complained to her supervisor, who told court administrators, who referred her complaint to the Board of Professional Conduct.

Her complaint requests that the board find Berry in violation of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judges to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” and sanction him as punishment.

Attorneys and judges found at fault by the board can be suspended from practicing or publicly reprimanded.