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Panel says ex-magistrate abused power

Mar. 27, 2014 @ 09:06 AM

PRINCETON, W.Va. — A judicial panel says a former Mercer County magistrate abused his power and his conduct on the bench was shameful.

The Judicial Investigation Commission admonished former Magistrate Richard D. Fowler earlier this month. The Bluefield Daily Telegraph obtained the commission's decision on Wednesday.

The newspaper says the commission began investigating Fowler in late 2103 after sexually explicit messages between him and a woman who appeared before him in court were posted on Facebook.

There also were allegations of sexual harassment and a complaint about extrajudicial activity.

The commission found probable cause that Fowler violated multiple canons and the code of judicial conduct. It admonished Fowler instead of pursuing formal charges because he is no longer in office.

Fowler retired in February. He has denied the allegations.