Home / Crimes Against Women / Top Federal Judge Richard Roberts Retires After A Woman Alleges They Had A Non-Consensual Sexual Relationship When She Was A 16-Year-Old Witness
U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts  is pictured before the start of a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Washington, Thursday, May 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts is pictured before the start of a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Washington, Thursday, May 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Top Federal Judge Richard Roberts Retires After A Woman Alleges They Had A Non-Consensual Sexual Relationship When She Was A 16-Year-Old Witness

The chief judge of D.C.’s federal court announced his retirement on Wednesday.  63-year-old Chief Judge Richard Roberts, serving a lifetime appointment to the bench since chosen by President Clinton in 1998, claimed that health reasons would prevent him from continuing to serve.

On the same day, the real reasons for his retirement came to light when a woman from his past filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against him, accusing Roberts of sexually assaulting her when she was just 16-years-old.

Terry Mitchell, who is now 51-years-old, is the Utah woman who filed the lawsuit accusing Roberts of a “predatory sexual relationship”and disclosed her name for use by the press. 35 years ago she was the eyewitness in a high-profile murder case that Roberts was prosecuting.  The lawsuit states that Roberts “intimidated, coerced, and manipulated” her into having sex over the course of several weeks when he would drive her from the courthouse to his hotel room “before and during the trial.”

According to the Washington Post,

Roberts, 63, declined to comment on his retirement or the lawsuit, but his attorneys called the allegations “categorically false” and said Roberts intends to “vigorously challenge” the allegations in court. His lawyers said the judge, who was unmarried at the time, had an intimate, consensual relationship with the woman that did not take place until after the end of the trial in which she testified.

In the state of Utah in 1981, the 16-year-old was legally old enough to give consent if the relationship was not coerced, as Roberts’s lawyers allege.
 “Roberts acknowledges that the relationship was indeed a bad lapse in judgment. However, the relationship did not occur until after the trial and had no bearing on the outcome of that trial,” according to the statement from his attorneys, led by Reid Weingarten.

The Utah Attorney General’s office investigated the woman’s allegations, but was unable to find evidence “strong enough to support a criminal prosecution.”  Still, the lawsuit has been handed off to the House and Senate judiciary committees as the Utah A.G. found evidence of ethics violations.

If Roberts had been having a sexual relationship with the plaintiff at the time she was the star witness in the trial he was prosecuting, he legally could not have withheld that information from the defense.

About Rebecca Lawrence

Rebecca Lawrence is a freelancer in Brooklyn, NY. She is owned by two blind cats. Tweet at her @rebeccalawrence

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