Delco judge accused of misconduct in case involving friend's daughters

By Jim Boyle | Jan 5, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsline) - A Delaware County Court of Common Pleas judge has been charged with judicial misconduct for failing to recuse herself from a case involving a friend, according to a complaint filed by the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania.

The board has called for the suspension with or without pay of Magisterial District Judge Dawn L. Vann until a trial before the Court of Judicial Discipline determines whether she committed five counts of misconduct, according to the filing.

The complaint, filed Friday, says Vann inserted herself into a police investigation of a 2011 domestic altercation involving the daughters of her lifelong friend. According to the investigation, Mikia Riley, who refers to Vann as her aunt and calls her "Ms. Dawn," got into an argument with her estranged husband, William Riley, Jr., on Sept. 13, 2011.

Riley's mother, Doloris Riley, claims that Mikia and her sister Mitiesha Handy began to strike her son with fallen tree branches. The sisters claimed that Doloris was the one using the branches against them. Riley's father William, a retired police officer, separated the individuals and called the police for assistance.

The complaint says the responding Chester City officers did not see any evidence of injuries from domestic violence and declined to file any charges against either parties, but advised that they could file private criminal complaints.

According to the board's complaint, Vann contacted the responding officer and requested that he file a criminal complaint against William Riley, Jr. The officer declined the request, and a few weeks later Vann apologized for her conduct, the complaint says.

However, after making the unsuccessful request for criminal charges, Vann allegedly contacted another officer who responded to a call the same night as the altercation from hospital personnel at the Crozer-Chester Medical Center, who had been instructed by Mikia Riley to contact the authorities. Again, Mikia and her sister were advised by the officer to file private criminal complaints, and one day later Handy provided a written statement to the police, the complaint says.

According to the complaint, Vann approached the second responding officer on Sept. 17, 2011, and asked him to draft arrest warrants for William Riley, Jr., and Doloris Riley. The officer agreed, and on Sept. 19, 2011, he prepared criminal charges including simple assault, aggravated assault and harassment against both defendants on documents backdated to Sept. 13, the complaint says.

The board accuses Vann of failing to recuse herself from the matter and authorizing the arrest warrants.

The charges were eventually dismissed for Doloris Riley. William Riley, Jr. had some charges dismissed at a preliminary hearing, and the rest were nolle prosequi at a hearing in the Court of Common Pleas.

They contacted an attorney to file a civil complaint against Vann and the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, but the parties entered into a settlement agreement before any further actions were taken.

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