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Disciplined judge responds "We're not swingers" following Colorado investigation

Disciplined judge responds "We're not swingers" following Colorado investigation
Disciplined judge responds "We're not swingers" following Colorado investigation 03:25

A Colorado judge who accepted a public censure and resigned following accusations of sexually charged conduct at work is striking back at the state investigation into his behavior calling it "disproportionate punishment for the crime." He is claiming state administrators wanted to embarrass, ridicule, and shame him for his alternative lifestyle.

"The investigation was overzealous and a waste of taxpayer dollars," said former Judge John Scipione in his first media interview, "It could have been resolved in its infancy. This case is about a waste of taxpayer dollars and a vindictive, nasty witch hunt aimed at destroying a dedicated civil servant and his family."

Scipione served as a magistrate in Arapahoe County from 2012 to 2017 and later as a judge, starting in 2018. But after a 30-year legal career, he agreed to resign with a public censure following accusations of inappropriate behavior with subordinates.

Former Judge John Scipione LinkedIn

In state disciplinary documents, administrators noted Scipione discussed his "sexual preferences and habits" with a subordinate at work. In an interview with CBS News Colorado, he acknowledged he crossed a line.

"I made a bad decision, I used poor judgment, I said things in hindsight that I shouldn't have said and wish I hadn't and I will take the consequences for that," said Scipione. 

He recounted that he didn't initiate the conversation with a female subordinate, but responded to an inquiry, which led to a discussion about his 25-year marriage which he said is "polyamorous," meaning he and his wife have consensual relationships with other people.

"We do have and have had other relationships with people. Sometimes there is an intimate sexual component and sometimes there's not," said Scipione. "We're just open to having experiences outside of our traditional confines of that." 

Former Judge John Scipione CBS

He has described his marriage as "consensually non-monogamous." The father of five said discussing that lifestyle with a subordinate "was entirely inappropriate. In hindsight, I should have just left it alone."

Scipione said while he and his wife are polyamorous, "We are not swingers."

A multi-year state investigation resulted in a finding that "Scipione Engaged In A Pattern of Misconduct," repeatedly using his position "to seek intimate relationships with lower-ranking or subordinate Judicial Department employees and court personnel," failing to disclose "an intimate relationship with a subordinate employee" when he served as a court magistrate, approximately 10 years earlier.

"That was entirely inappropriate," Scipione conceded. "It was consensual but it was still wrong. I do regret it. I messed up."

The judicial investigation concluded Scipione "Engaged in a Pattern of Misconduct' and "repeatedly abused his power for self-gain." The state says it has settled two sexual harassment claims related to Scipione's behavior for $130,000.

While he agreed in January 2023 to a public censure for his behavior and resigned, just last month, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling that Scipione should have to repay $51,189 in attorneys' fees to cover earlier disciplinary proceedings.

"I don't have $51,000," said Scipione. "It's a judgment I'll have to pay over my lifetime." 

He called the judgment, "an unconscionable sanction." He went on to say he "absolutely" made mistakes, but considers the judicial investigation into his conduct "disproportionate conduct for the crime." He said he believes state judicial authorities went after him harder than other judges who he said were involved in more serious incidents due to the sexual nature of his conduct.

"People like to sexualize things they don't understand," Scipione observed. "Did I make mistakes? Absolutely. Do I take responsibility? Absolutely. Were the consequences life-altering beyond repair? Yes, and that's something I just have to deal with," he said during an hour long interview.

Jeffrey Walsh, Special Counsel for the Colorado Office of Judicial Discipline declined to discuss Scipione's case or the former judge's comments. 

"Neither the commission nor its staff, comment on individual cases," said Walsh.

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