Sacramento Superior Court Judge Benjamin Diaz said Sunday he was sorry about his arrest over the weekend for soliciting a prostitute and engaging in a lewd act, which he said he did for laughs.

   Diaz told The Bee he will plead no contest to the charges. His arraignment had not been scheduled.

   Diaz was cited Friday night on charges of soliciting a prostitute and engaging in a lewd act in public, a police spokesman said. The activity occurred in a car near 17th and S streets, he said.

   The judge said he had had some drinks with friends at a bar on L Street and left about 11 p.m.

   After he left, Diaz said, I ran into a lady who I knew was a hooker. I just was curious and thought it would be for laughs. I did it for laughs and it wasn't funny.

   I want to apologize for the embarrassment I caused my friends in the community, said Diaz, who has been a judge since 1976.

   He said that was all he wanted to say about the incident.

   Jail records said a police officer saw Diaz pick up Kasandra Daniels in his car about 11:30 p.m. The officer followed them to a nearby alley and walked up to the car, where he saw Daniels performing oral copulation on Diaz, the officer's report said.

   According to the report, Daniels told police that Diaz paid her $25.

   Diaz, 51, was cited but not booked into jail on his promise to appear at his arraignment.

   Daniels, 32, was arrested and released on $2,000 bail.

   The police spokesman said that is the usual procedure in vice cases.

   The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor charges is six months in jail and a $500 fine, said District Attorney John Dougherty.

   The incident took place on the fringe of an area frequented by prostitutes.

   Neighbors, angered by the soliciting in front of their homes, formed an organization to stop the activity. The area also was targeted this year by police.

   Diaz' judgeship had its roots in a dare he took in 1962 when he quit a career as an income tax auditor and entered McGeorge School of Law, from which he earned his law degree.

   After passing the state bar exam, Diaz briefly worked as a private attorney and then took a post in the Sacramento County public defender's office.

   In 1976, then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Diaz to the Municipal Court bench. Three years later, Brown elevated him to the Superior Court.

   Diaz, who is divorced, lives with his son.

   If any disciplinary action were to be taken against Diaz, it would be done by the state Commission on Judicial Performance, a San Francisco-based agency. No representative of the commission was available for comment Sunday.

   Sacramento County has no jurisdiction over the appointment or removal of judges, said county counsel Lee Elam. 100036690

    Kaiser paid this judge to make a decision in a malpractice suit.
    Do you think they knew about the sex scandal? *
* Diaz announced in 2/86 he would not seek re-election.

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