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Archive for Thursday, July 24, 2003

Judge charged with judicial misconduct

July 24, 2003

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— A Cheyenne County judge convicted of intimidating a witness has been charged with 10 counts of judicial misconduct.

The charges issued by the Commission on Judicial Qualifications stem from incidents surrounding Judge Tamera Zimbelman's March conviction, as well as an allegation of misconduct that came more than a month after she was found guilty of intimidating Christopher Merklin. Days after Zimbelman was found guilty, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Kay McFarland barred her from performing any judicial duties.

Zimbelman had accused Merklin of snatching her purse from a St. Frances bowling alley on Dec. 22, 2001.

A few days later, Zimbelman's estranged husband, Rell Dean Zimbelman, of St. Francis, and Scott Allen Baumfalk, of Kanorado, showed up at a house where Merklin lived with his parents and allegedly demanded the purse be returned.

Dennis Merklin, Christopher's father, pressed criminal trespass and disorderly conduct charges against the two men. Rell Zimbelman was cleared of both charges in a December trial, but Baumfalk was found guilty of disorderly conduct.

Christopher Merklin told authorities before the trials that Zimbelman called him and told him to drop the charges or she'd take him to jail for burglary.

According to the commission's charges, Zimbelman also confronted another couple who were at the bowling alley the night in question. The day after questioning Jim and Christy Miller with St. Francis Police Officer Travis Stein, Zimbelman allegedly told Stein that she was sending someone over to the Millers' home to "scare the living dickens out of them."

In charges unrelated to Zimbelman's conviction, the commission also claims she wrote letters to police officers telling them that if they did not call her when incidents involved her family, she would hold them in contempt of court. She also threatened to take such matters to the City Council if necessary.

Also, more than a month after her intimidation conviction, Zimbelman allegedly went to a location where authorities had stopped Rell Zimbelman for suspicious driving. There, the judge is said to have insulted officers by accusing them of harassing her family. Rell Zimbelman had been driving on a suspended license, and after authorities determined there was probable cause to search his vehicle, they found a controlled substance.

The judge tried to get into the vehicle, but was told to get out because it was being impounded. Zimbelman then swore at Cheyenne County Sheriff Eddie Dankenbring, documents state, but as he walked to his car to get a second set of handcuffs, the judge backed down.

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