This article has been updated to reflect the correct titles of Cumberland County First Assistant District Attorney Michelle Sibert and Magisterial District Justice Kathy Silcox.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The abc27 Investigators have obtained the audio recordings of Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Placey yelling in the courtroom.
The audio recordings became public record after the Judicial Conduct Board entered them as exhibits with the Court of Judicial Discipline.
Placey is accused of violating the Judicial Code of Conduct and violating due process rights. Placey admits to his outbursts, blaming them on concussions he suffered playing college sports.
The Court of Judicial Discipline will listen to the audio recordings and determine if there was misconduct.
Four audio recordings have been entered as exhibits. One is from Tony Samento’s divorce hearing in 2017.
In the audio recording you hear Judge Placey yell at Samento saying “Sit down! Now! Down! Out of that seat. Move it like you got a purpose.”
The abc27 Investigators interviewed Samento in 2019 about his experience in the courtroom with Judge Placey.
“There are no words to describe the way he screamed at me. It is like a madman going totally insane,” said Samento. “I look up and he’s literally coming over the bench, just screaming at the top of his lungs.”
In the audio you can hear Samento sliding his chair back and hitting the wall behind him when Judge Placey stands up.
Samento says, “I’m sorry, your honor.”
Judge Placey responds, “I’ll tell you when I’m coming back. It’s not going to be today. You get your client under control or I am going to tear him up on the stand. Do you understand me?”
Samento was responding to attorney questions in a normal tone before Placey abruptly started to yell.
Another audio exhibit is from a sentencing hearing in 2019. Judge Placey has an exchange with Cumberland County First Assistant District Attorney Michelle Sibert. Placey appears to get upset when he believes Sibert interrupts him.
Sibert- I informed the court…
Judge Placey: Why do you talk over me? Step out of here. Get out. Take him back down to the cell. I will deal with him when I am ready. You, out!
Sibert: Your Honor
Judge Placey: Out. Now. Do you not listen? What is the problem with your hearing today? You, out. Out. Hand that file to somebody else.
According to court transcripts Judge Placey leaves the courtroom briefly and when he returns Sibert is still there.
Judge Placey yells, “Haul her out. She is the first one out of this courtroom. I walk back in here and she is still here. Get her out. Move it, sheriff.”
Sibert says, ” I’m sorry, your Honor.”
Judge Placey yells, “Move it. Quit talking. Lord have mercy. You show me enough disrespect all freaking day long. What is your problem? Get out of here. She does not walk back into this courtroom, sheriff.”
Sibert is now running for Placey’s seat against current Magisterial District Justice Kathy Silcox. Placey decided not to run again. His term is over at the end of the year.
Placey’s case is being reviewed by the Court of Judicial Discipline which will issue an opinion. If the court finds there was misconduct, Placey could face fines, loss of pension, or even be banned from serving as a judge in the future.
In a response filed with the Court of Judicial Discipline, Placey admitted to the charges and claims he he recognized a change in his impulsive behavioral control in late 2018.
According to the court paperwork, in 2017 Judge Placey received notices from the NCAA of the potential for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), believed to be linked to concussions he had suffered playing college sports. Placey says he shared this information with his physician.
According to the Mayo Clinic, CTE is brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas which can cause difficulties with thinking and emotions. CTE can only be diagnosed during an autopsy.