EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSMAGISTRATE FOUTY
from Eyewitness News Online
Magistrate Speaks Out About Charges
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Videographer: Troy Morgan
Web Producer: Kallie Cart
Reported: Mar. 28, 2012 5:31 PM EDT
Updated: Apr. 17, 2012 6:13 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
A Kanawha County Magistrate who is in serious trouble is finally speaking out. We've tried to contact Magistrate Carol Fouty repeatedly, since we started investigating this story but she's refused our requests for an interview and has kept a low profile. But now she's speaking out through an e-mail to a local paper.
This is the first time Fouty has spoken out publicly since she was suspended from the bench by the state supreme court and charged with numerous ethics violations.
In an e-mail to the Charleston Daily Mail, Fouty claims she's done nothing wrong telling the paper: "I am not guilty of these allegations against me, with the exception of dismissing a ticket."
The paper says Fouty went onto say in the e-mail, "If I am to be prosecuted for dismissing a ticket, then the state will have to prosecute every magistrate and circuit judge in the land."
She's accused of dismissing a drug citation for a woman, who later became her maid, without police or prosecutors present, among several other violations including allegedly allowing defendants to do house work for her.
Eyewitness news has confirmed there is a criminal investigation into Fouty's actions that started even before the ethics charges were filed.
Fouty told the paper that the criminal investigation centers around the alleged purchase of stolen air conditioners and heat pumps, according to the paper, she says to her knowledge, she has never purchased any stolen items and told the paper the alleged witness in the case has recanted his story.
A few weeks ago while digging deeper into the Fouty story, we went looking for a man named Renwick Clark, who's been in legal trouble in the past. During our conversation about Fouty he mentioned the AC units, to Eyewitness News but wouldn't go into detail about the circumstances.
At this point, Fouty has only been charged with ethics violations. The criminal investigation is ongoing.
Formal ethics charges have been filed against a Kanawha County magistrate. The report issued by the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel is lengthy, 20 pages, It outlines numerous judicial ethics violations allegedly committed by Magistrate Carol Fouty. She was suspended without pay on Monday and on Tuesday the formal charges were handed down.
A lot of what is in the report, is what we've reported before on Eyewitness News. The violation of several judicial cannons stems from five separate counts.
The first count is for dismissing a drug charge for a woman who later became Fouty's maid. Neither prosecutors nor police were present during the dismissal. And the report says a friend of Fouty's called and asked for the favor.
The second charge is regarding a family, who we interviewed, the Shaffers, who told us they did work on Fouty's property in exchange for help out of their legal troubles.
The third count surrounds a man named Earl Wright. The investigation commission says he worked kind of like a bail bondsman and would help people post bond. If those suspects couldn't afford bond, he told investigators he would work with Fouty to get their bonds lowered, he says every time he asked for a lower bond for someone Fouty complied. In exchange, the suspects would do yard work or house work on Fouty's various properties for money, the money would go to pay Wright's fee.
Only certified bondsmen are allowed in Kanawha County, Wright isn't one of them, that's count four against Fouty.
Fouty is also in trouble for alleged mishandling of warrants.
The Judicial Investigation Commission says the charges are even more serious because she's been disciplined several times in the past and say this is a "pattern" of misconduct.
Fouty has 30 days to appeal the charges.
This all comes after the announcement on Monday that the Supreme Court had suspended Fouty without pay. Magistrate Fouty's suspension is effective immediately but she continues to officially occupy the office until she is removed or resigned. So in the meantime, a long-time Cabell County magistrate has been chosen to fill in for Fouty. Brenda Chapman will be covering for Fouty during her suspension.
Judge Duke Bloom, who oversees the magistrates in Kanawha County, says Fouty's access to the Kanawha County Courthouse has been restricted. She can now only access parts of the building that are open to the public.
After serving 22 years on the bench, Magistrate Carol Fouty has now been removed. She has been suspended without pay following a bold move from the West Virginia Supreme Court.
"It is a profound development and its something that rarely happens," Court Administrator Steve Canterbury says.
Canterbury filed a complaint against Fouty following news reports of alleged wrongdoings. It started when Fouty's maid was arrested for DUI. Eyewitness News found out Fouty had dismissed a drug charge for the woman before hiring her, then more accusations started to surface regarding people doing favors for Fouty in exchange for help out of their legal troubles.
The court found there is probable cause to believe Fouty has engaged or is currently engaged in a serious violation of the judicial code of ethics.
The order also points out a written admonishment against Fouty filed back in December of 2011.
The latest case now goes to the judicial disciplinary council to file formal charges against Fouty, which could come as early as Tuesday.
"There's no joy in this announcement," Canterbury says. "We all feel strong that we want judges to be on a standard higher than anyone can imagine, the public expects it."
The action by the court is something that's only happened eight times since the 1970s.
Fouty has 30 days to ask for a hearing on her suspension.
Eyewitness news has also found out there is a separate criminal investigation underway.
Action could be taken as early as next week against an embattled Kanawha County Magistrate. According to sources, a criminal investigation is going on right now into Magistrate Carol Fouty, but a complaint has also been filed by the court administrator at the state level.
The allegations of wrongdoing from the bench have continued to pile up against Magistrate Fouty. The scrutiny started after her maid was arrested for DUI and Fouty then said she hired the woman, after dismissing a drug charge for her. Then sources told Eyewitness News that Fouty has helped people get out of trouble in exchange for personal favors. And just this week, concerns were raised after Fouty allegedly told a man who was arrested for an alleged DUI that he could drive himself home. He was picked up a short time later and charged with a second DUI.
Steve Canterbury, the state Supreme Court Administrator says after seeing the reports on the magistrate he was concerned so he filed an extraordinary complaint against Fouty. The Judicial Investigation Commission is now looking into the allegations. If it's found that Fouty committed ethical violations, she could be disciplined; something as simple as a letter or as severe as a suspension without pay for a long period of time.
Canterbury also says the commission is only looking for ethics violations. If, during the review, they uncover a criminal violation that will be handed over to the prosecutor's office. Some sort of action is expected by next week, the court could also decide to let the process play out.
We continue to try and reach Magistrate Fouty, she hasn't been at work and today when we called her house and she hung up on us.
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