Judge Carter Williams of Hardy County, under the recommended sentence, will serve at least three months’ unpaid suspension, pay a $5,000 fine and pay more than $11,000 in costs to process his case. He will also be blamed.
The suspension could be extended for up to a year if authorities conclude that Williams is in violation of the terms of an agreement over his conduct. The recommendations will go to the state Supreme Court for final decision.
“This case is a written example of a judge’s violation of the Judicial Code of Conduct,” wrote Judge Michael Lawrence, chair of the West Virginia Judicial Hearing.
“On the other hand, apart from the respondent’s poor compliance with traffic laws and regulations, his unethical behavior was limited in this case, based on clear and convincing evidence, until Sunday, July 11, 2021, when he flagrantly exaggerated the simple reaction to stopping traffic Because of the use of a mobile phone, which motorists generally do not hold in their hands to make themselves better drivers, because the traffic officer rejected his excuse to have a mobile phone in his hand, and on Wednesday July 14, 2021 when he had a conversation with the prosecution attorney where he continued to express his complaint against the traffic officer, to which the defendant apologized in conjunction with the hearing.”
In other words, the judge had a bad day and made it worse.
Scrutiny started on July 11, 2021, when Williams went out for ice cream with his family, started driving home, picked up a cell phone he had dropped, and Moorefield Police Officer Deavonta Johnson pulled it up for holding the phone in his hand while driving. , reprimanded the patrolman, and called several local officials, including the patrol superintendent, during a traffic stop.
Investigators say that in the hours after the traffic stop, Williams called the superintendent, Lieutenant Melody Burroughs, several times, summoned Morefield Police Chief Stephen Rigleyman and called the city’s former police chief Steve Rickert. Witnesses indicated that the judge’s message was that he would appear less favorable in cases involving the local police department.
The hearing concluded this week that “there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has implied that he may issue judgments in cases related to the police agency that employs the traffic officer that will be affected by his grievances with his suspension.”
The ethics case was considered over three days last spring by members of the Judicial Hearing Board: three circuit judges, one judge, family court judge, mental health commissioner, juvenile referee, special commissioner, special master, or former judge or judge, state or federal, three members of the public.
They concluded that there was no clear evidence of racism against the patrol man, who is black, or convincing evidence to hold Williams accountable for a separate situation where he walked out of a retailer without paying for his merchandise. The latter case was one of losing focus, Williams and the retailer said.
The Judicial Hearing Board concluded that other aspects of the case were clearly cases of attempted use of a position of judicial authority for personal reasons. The Board noted the judge’s testimony that a medical condition likely affected his behavior and took into account his statements of remorse.
“There is clear and compelling evidence that the defendant failed to act in a manner that promoted public confidence in the independence, impartiality and impartiality of the judiciary, and made improper threats to use his power as a judge to retaliate against the passage of the passage,” concluded the hearing.
Moreover, “there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant summoned his judicial office in a manner less than patient, dignified, and courteous with the traffic officer, the officer’s supervisor, the police chief, the former police chief and the mayor.”