Judge accused of assaulting woman in his own courtroom

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Harris County judge is accused of assaulting a woman in his own court room, and Thursday that woman is speaking out for the first time about what happened.

Police have confirmed that County Criminal Court 10 Judge Lee Harper Wilson is being investigated for grabbing Sarai Garza in the arm on Jan. 29.

That morning, Garza, a legal assistant for a local attorney, was sitting inside Court 10 completing paperwork. According to Garza, Judge Wilson was apparently unhappy with her sitting in the front row of the seats, which is usually reserved for attorneys, and came down to the benches.

He allegedly walked over, grabbed Garza's arm, and told her to move.

"I said, 'I always sit there,' and he says, 'I'm telling you,'" Garza demonstrated. She grabbed her attorney Thuy Le's arm the same way she said Wilson grabbed hers. She says Wilson spoke through clenched teeth and applied strong pressure to her arm.

"It was this evil look with so much hate," she recalled, tears streaming down her face. "Right now, I feel scared and I feel humiliated. I mean, I'm so hurt."

Distraught, Garza left the courtroom. She ran into a courtroom interpreter, and told him what happened.

ABC13 Eyewitness News spoke to the interpreter, and he confirmed to us Garza's version of events, saying she looked upset and was holding her arm.

Garza was initially reluctant to report the event, but courthouse workers eventually convinced her to take photos of the bruising she said the judge left behind.

ABC13 was given copies of the photos, which showed obvious bruising on the inside of Garza's elbow.

"I was clutching my arm because it hurt so bad, so bad." Le said. "She's worked at the courthouse for 7 years. She wants to be able to walk into a courthouse, do her job, and not be afraid. Everybody is same under the law, and for a judge to come down, for whatever reason it was, and put their hands on a person is absolutely outrageous."

Le and Garza have both been interviewed by Houston police investigators.

Judge Wilson refused our request for an interview, but we did speak with his attorney James Stafford. Stafford claims his client did not assault anyone and does not remember touching Garza.

However, he did say that because courtrooms are so crowded, Judge Wilson has occasionally lightly touched someone to get them to move so court can proceed.

"I don't want no other woman, no one, man or woman, going through this," said an emotional Garza, who wants to see charges filed against the judge.

For now, the investigation is ongoing, and the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct has been notified.

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