PITTSBURGH – An Indiana County magistrate suspended with pay after witnesses said she sideswiped an oncoming vehicle while driving and appeared drunk has been reprimanded for leaving the scene of an accident and obstructing justice but has had misconduct charges dismissed by the state Judicial Conduct Board.
A board letter, publicized Wednesday, means Blairsville District Judge Jennifer Rega won’t face removal from office or any further punishment even though the board determined she broke disciplinary rules for state judges.
“Specifically, the Board was most troubled by its conclusion that you left the scene of the accident and did not immediately report it, in part, to avoid being cited for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) because you had consumed a quantity of alcohol prior to the accident,” the letter said.
Rega, whose office is in Blairsville, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment by telephone Wednesday. Her attorney, Robert Muir, declined to comment.
Rega, 41, is serving one year’s probation in a first-offenders program. She was accepted into the program, which does not require defendants to plead guilty, in December.
State police said Rega’s vehicle crossed the center line of a roadway just after midnight on Sept. 13 and knocked the mirror off an oncoming car. The people in the car followed Rega and told police that she slurred her words and seemed drunk when they stopped and tried to speak with her and that she drove away before police arrived.
The Judicial Conduct Board concluded that Rega violated disciplinary rules for judges by failing to avoid impropriety or the appearance of impropriety and engaged in conduct that “brings the judicial office into disrepute.”
The board decided against disciplining Rega beyond reprimanding her publicly by releasing its findings and the letter dismissing the misconduct charges because she was contrite and was dealing with the underlying criminal charges through the first-offenders program.
If Rega successfully completes that probation program, she can ask the court to expunge her arrest record. If she doesn’t, however, she could still be prosecuted for the underlying criminal charges and face additional disciplinary sanctions, according to the board’s letter.
The letter to Rega was dated Feb. 10, and she had to meet with the board’s general counsel to discuss it. A document signed and dated by Rega shows she did that Tuesday.
Indiana County Judge William Martin announced Sept. 17 that Rega would be on paid leave due to the criminal charges. It was unclear what effect the board’s dismissal will have on the suspension or whether it can even be lifted while she remains on probation.