PHOENIX — A state commission is conducting a disciplinary investigation of a Pinal County judge who already is the subject of a criminal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of a teenage girl.
The existence of the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct’s investigation involving Superior Court Judge Steven Fuller was confirmed by commission spokeswoman Heather Murphy on Wednesday, a day after it was reported by the Casa Grande Dispatch.
The Associated Press last week reported the existence of a criminal investigation involving the judge, who declined to comment to the AP but whose attorney denied the allegations against the judge.
The AP’s story reported that Murphy declined to say whether complaints stemming from the sexual abuse allegations have been filed against Fuller or whether the agency is conducting an investigation of the judge.
However, Murphy said Wednesday she could confirm the existence of the commission’s investigation because a rule permits the commission to confirm the existence of a pending investigation involving a matter that is publicly known.
Fuller’s attorney, Dennis Wilenchik, said his client will cooperate with the commission and “looks forward to defending his honor and reputation.”
Wilenchik expressed confidence that Fuller “will be proven to have not done anything inappropriate or wrongful.”
The commission reviews complaints against Arizona’s judges and can reprimand judges. The commission also can recommend stiffer punishments but only the state Supreme Court can censure, suspend or remove judges.
Murphy said the commission has only limited information so far, including an initial police report, and that she could not predict how long the investigation would take.
“The commission itself does not have criminal investigatory powers so the commission is to a certain extent going to look for what comes forth from the official law enforcement investigation and any other matters that come to light,” Murphy told the AP.
The commission has limited experience in investigation matters involving alleged criminality by judges, Murphy said. “We’re fortunate that we have a very good bench.”
The criminal investigation is being conducted by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in Tucson.
Now 25, the woman told investigators last year that Fuller touched her genitals and buttocks repeatedly and also showed her pornography, according to a police report obtained by the AP.
The AP is not identifying the woman because it generally does not name people who say they are victims of sex abuse.
Because of the allegations, Fuller at his request is not currently hearing criminal cases because he recently was reassigned, according to court officials.
Jacques Billeaud contributed to this report.