A federal immigration judge in Boston has been put on leave after complaints that he made jokes about Tarzan to a woman who had been raped and tortured in her native Uganda, the Associated Press reports. The case was first reported by the Boston Herald. The judge had been the subject of earlier complaints.
The woman, whose first name is Jane, went before Judge Thomas Ragno in June, seeking political asylum in the United States, saying government soldiers killed her husband and attacked her. “Jane, come here. Me Tarzan!” Ragno said, according to the woman’s doctor, who attended the June 20 deportation hearing to testify as an expert witness about the woman’s claims. “It was disrespectful and insulting, and in my mind it was racist to have a white judge making Tarzan comments to a black woman,” said Dr. Sondra Crosby.
Ragno also dialed the weather number on his speaker phone so he could listen to the weekend weather forecast and talked in open court about looking for a new condominium, Crosby said. The judge rejected the woman’s bid for asylum.
In 1996, the Board of Immigration Appeals criticized Ragno for a “skeptical and hostile” courtroom demeanor in an asylum case. Last year, attorney Jeffrey Goldman filed a complaint after he said Ragno was rude and insensitive to his clients, Russian Jews seeking asylum after claiming their son had been murdered because of their religion. “My client was testifying about how she found her son strangled, with his neck tied with a rope to a bench. She was hysterical, crying, and the judge was sitting there listening, and all of a sudden, the judge shuts off the tape recorder and says, ‘Lunchtime!’ in a singsongy kind of a tone,” said Goldman.