Conflict of interest for Harrison judge?

(07/23/03) HARRISON - Harrison Justice John Voetsch sentenced Pat Rukaj as a juvenile offender in January for the death of classmate Rob Viscome. Rukaj punched Viscome in the head at an underage drinking party. The blow put Viscome in a coma, and he later died.

Although the proceedings were sealed, Rukaj did not go to jail and reportedly had to perform community service. It was a sentence many thought was too light.

Now Voetsch stands to make a substantial commission as the real estate agent for the Rukaj family's Harrison mansion. Voetsch, a justice in Harrison for 20 years, says he sentenced Rukaj by looking solely at the facts of the case, and there was no special treatment.

Voetch listed the neglected four-acre estate on Sky View Farm in Harrison for $2.5 million. The Rukaj's were able to afford the home after Joseph Rukaj won $17.5 million in the New York State Lottery in 1990. Joseph Rukaj is now serving 20 years in prison for the 1996 killing a former lover's father in law.

The attorney for Rob Viscome's family says his clients are very upset to learn about the situation, and say they hope Judge Voetsch did not give preferential treatment to the Rukaj family.

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