A Delaware County, Pennsylvania judge is under fire after being accused of making racist remarks during a child support case.
Kostas “Gus” Hartas, who is a Greek American, told NBC10 news that he was attending a child support hearing at the Delaware County Government Center when Judge Michael Coll went on an anti-Greek tirade.
Delaware County is east of Philadelphia and includes large populations of Greek Americans and numerous Greek American communities, including Upper Darby, which is heavily populated by Greek Americans.
According to court transcripts, Coll asked Hartas, “Are you of Greek background sir?”
“Yes sir,” Hartas replied.
“Right, the Greeks never pay taxes,” Coll said.
As Hartas’ attorney objected, Coll then said, “That’s why their country is in bankruptcy.”
Hartas’ attorney objected again but Coll continued his rant.
“So can I take judicial note of the fact that the Greeks are in bankruptcy as a nation and one of the reasons, the principal reason is because none of them ever pay taxes?” Coll asked.
“Your Honor, I object to lumping my client in with the entire country of Greece,” the attorney replied.
“The what?” Coll asked.
“I object,” the attorney said. “I object to the statements that you’re making.”
“Well, these are simply statements of fact, right?” the judge asked.
Hartas told NBC10 he believes Coll’s comments are blatant examples of racism.
“If he said that about the Greeks that just means he’s a straight racist person,” Hartas said. “If he said that about us, you know he would’ve said that about anybody, blacks, Hispanics.”
Hartas also said the judge’s statements brought his mother, who brought him to the US from Greece when he was three-years-old, to tears.
“I turned around to see and I couldn’t find her,” he said. “Her head was down. She was crying.”
NBC10 reached out to Judge Coll Wednesday, who issued the following statement:
“My language does not accurately reflect my feelings about the Greek community,” he said. “I regret the language I used during the hearing.”
Hartas, who insists he’s doing everything he can to support his children, told NBC10 the judge’s apology meant little.
“I would like for him to apologize to me face to face,” he said. “He said it to my face. He can apologize to my face.”
In addition to his apology, Coll told NBC10 he vacated the child support order signed at the hearing and ordered a new hearing with a different judge.
Hartas is scheduled to return to the courthouse on Thursday.