HAHNVILLE, La. (AP) — A state District Court judge in St. Charles Parish criticized for questioning a 10-year-old girl's rape claim during a pretrial hearing has refused to step down from the case, charging prosecutors who want her replaced mishandled the case by allowing the child to sit within 15 feet of her alleged attacker.

The state attorney general's office, which is prosecuting the case, accuses Judge Michele Morel of improperly ejecting her from a courtroom.

But Morel said it prosecutors and a victim advocate were at fault, and that she felt a responsibility to protect the child from further emotional distress.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/15oXKmi ) the dispute stems from an Aug. 21 pretrial hearing at which the girl and the man alleged to have attacked her were present.