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Judge removes himself from rape case

January 16, 1997

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The judge presiding over a rape case against a high school athlete who lived as a fugitive for eight years removed himself from the case Wednesday after complaints that he favored the prosecution.

The complaints raised by the defense included Superior Court Judge Martin Nigro’s reference to defendant Alex Kelly’s girlfriend as ``Amelia Airhead.″

Nigro said he disagreed with many of the complaints, but added that judges should remove themselves if there is even the appearance of bias.

Kelly, 29, was a high school wrestling star when he was arrested on the rape charges. Just before his trial was to begin in 1987, he fled overseas. Authorities said his wealthy parents enabled him to live as a ski bum until he surrendered in Switzerland in 1995.

His first trial ended on Nov. 12 with his six-member jury unable to reach a verdict. He is to be retried in April.

At a hearing Wednesday, defense lawyer Thomas Puccio asked for a new judge, complaining about a remark Nigro made about Kelly’s girlfriend, Amy Molitor, who had accompanied Kelly to court.

``We call her Amelia Airhead,″ Nigro told jurors.

Puccio also objected to a lunch that Nigro had with prosecutors during a recess in Kelly’s trial. Nigro said it was just a casual courthouse lunch, not a conference the defense was entitled to attend. Bruce Hudock, the lead prosecutor, did not attend.

Puccio also cited statements Nigro made when he sentenced Kelly for nine house burglaries in 1984.

``You’re a thief, a burglar ... and of no use to society, as far as I can see,″ the judge said.

Nigro told Puccio he always uses strong language when sentencing juveniles ``to try to impress on them the seriousness of the offense they committed.″

Judge William Hickey Jr., administrative judge for the district, was named to replace Nigro.

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