Judge asks to stay despite courtroom affair - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Judge asks to stay despite courtroom affair

Posted: Updated:
  • LawMore>>

  • Lena Lunsford arrested in connection with her toddler Aliayah's 2011 disappearance

    Lena Lunsford arrested in connection with her toddler Aliayah's 2011 disappearance

    Thursday, November 3 2016 3:25 PM EDT2016-11-03 19:25:13 GMT

    Lena Lunsford was taken into custody by authorities in Pinellas County, Fla., where she is awaiting extradition on a charge of death of a child by a parent by child abuse,  Lewis County, WV, Sheriff Adam Gissy told The Exponent Telegram.

    Lena Lunsford was taken into custody by authorities in Pinellas County, Fla., where she is awaiting extradition on a charge of death of a child by a parent by child abuse,  Lewis County, WV, Sheriff Adam Gissy told The Exponent Telegram.

  • Greenbrier County, WV, business owner admits pocketing money intended to pay employment taxes

    Greenbrier County, WV, business owner admits pocketing money intended to pay employment taxes

    Thursday, November 3 2016 1:59 PM EDT2016-11-03 17:59:28 GMT
    CHLOE DAWSON/ The State JournalCHLOE DAWSON/ The State Journal

    Brandon J. Black, 32, of Rainelle, WV, owned and operated a private security business in Lewisburg that provided services to businesses and individuals throughout West Virginia.

    Brandon J. Black, 32, of Rainelle, WV, owned and operated a private security business in Lewisburg that provided services to businesses and individuals throughout West Virginia.

  • Inmate at federal prison in Glenville, WV, admits assaulting CO

    Inmate at federal prison in Glenville, WV, admits assaulting CO

    Wednesday, September 28 2016 9:53 AM EDT2016-09-28 13:53:20 GMT
    CHLOE DAWSON/ The State JournalCHLOE DAWSON/ The State Journal

    U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II said Robert Fleming, 30, intended to harm the correctional officer in the June 2014 assault.

    U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II said Robert Fleming, 30, intended to harm the correctional officer in the June 2014 assault.

Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong has admitted to having an unethical relationship with another county employee, but wants to stay on the job.

Wilfong spoke in her own defense in front of the nine-member Judicial Hearing Board Aug. 11, admitting her wrongdoing but claiming it should not come in between the work she has done and can continue to do for the county court system.

Wilfong said she sometimes doesn't think of herself as chief judge, but rather a 44-year-old citizen of Randolph County.

“I didn't want to make a mockery of the system,” Wilfong said. “If you give me a chance to continue (as judge), you'll never be sorry.

“I love what I do and I want to be able to continue doing what I love.”

Wilfong said when her husband discovered her secret affair, he was more than supportive.

“Who does that?” she asked. “He was standing in the driveway and he hugged me, told me to go inside and we would talk.”

Although Wilfong said her husband forgave her for the affair, the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission isn't so sure.

The commission heard from witnesses explaining why they felt uncomfortable about her relationship and why it was unethical.

Attorneys become witnesses

In addition to Wilfong's self-report to the JIC, several other complaints about Wilfong's relationship with Travis Carter, former director of the North Central Community Corrections program, were filed.

Chris Cooper, a criminal defense attorney who has known Wilfong and her husband, Matt Wilfong, for many years, filed a petition explaining Jaymie Wilfong's improper and sexual/emotional relationship with Carter violated four canons of the code of conduct. Wilfong admitted to violating two, but refused to say she was guilty of all four accusations.

Cooper said he felt it was his obligation to file the complaint about the judge; however, he said her self-report had nothing to do with his decision, nor did he think she did it because she found out he was going to file.

Phillip Isner, a criminal defense lawyer in Elkins, said he wasn't sure how he received Wilfong's cellphone number, but after he did, the two began texting. He said he felt uncomfortable at times because he described both of their styles of texting as “flirty.”

Isner said after Wilfong told him about her relationship with Carter, he advised her to disclose it, but didn't say anything himself because he hoped she would follow his advice.

Isner also admitted to giving the pair his garage door opener so they could continue their affair at his house while he was away.

Michael Taylor, a Randolph County commissioner, also said he had a good, professional relationship with Wilfong.

Taylor said about six months into her term, Wilfong came to the county commission with a request that she and the three magistrates be given reserve parking spots. The request was granted. He said Wilfong also requested new office furniture, which the commission later provided.

Wilfong also lobbied at county commission meetings for Carter to receive a new jeep as a work vehicle. Carter received the jeep, and the counsel read some texts between the pair during that time. “Have a new shiny jeep yet?” Wilfong texted Carter. “Yes, I have a jeep, baby,” Carter responded.

Courtroom affairs

Wilfong admitted her relationship with Carter lasted about two years, starting in October 2011. She was elected in 2008.

In a 27-page submission to the JIC she admitted “with reluctance” to performing oral sex on Carter while he was in her office “on three or less times.” Wilfong also said she sent sexual explicit emails, text messages, instant messages and nude photos of herself to Carter.

In May, West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis disqualified Wilfong from hearing any cases that involved the Randolph County Prosecutor's Office. Wilfong had the option of using the North Central Community Corrections program as an alternative sentencing program for offenders, and also set the fee for participating in the program.

According to the JIC's formal charges, court personnel sometimes felt it necessary to interrupt Wilfong and Carter when the pair were in Wilfong's chambers to insist Wilfong continue with the day's court proceedings.

Office manager makes claims

When Jennifer Lloyd took the stand, Wilfong had just finished explaining a friend's idea for creating a “Support Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong” Facebook group.

Wilfong said she was humbled by the idea a friend's daughter had to create the page.

Lloyd, office manager for Isner's law firm, said while on the stand she was nervous. She said the Wilfongs approached her in Walmart. Lloyd said the Wilfongs asked her why she wouldn't “like” the Facebook page in support of the judge, and why she would not write a letter to show her support.

While Lloyd testified, Matt Wilfong spoke from his seat in the courtroom, saying Lloyd was lying, while he looked at his in-laws, pastor and one of his wife's co-workers.

After Lloyd concluded her testimony, Jaymie Wilfong returned to the stand and said Lloyd's testimony was a lie. Wilfong said she knew Lloyd, but the two were not friends in any way. She said the incident at Walmart never occurred. Wilfong said she has no connection to the Facebook group. Her name was misspelled in the headline of the group.

Wilfong said she joined the group to post her thanks, then immediately removed herself so as not to influence others to support her for any other reason than they wanted to.

Second chances

Wilfong said she understood what she did was wrong, but doesn't believe punishing the people of Randolph County after she has done great things in the court system is necessary.

“Sorry for wasting your time,” Wilfong said to the commission. “There's no excuse for it. I thought I had genuine feelings for him, thought I loved him. It's embarrassing; I'm ashamed of what I've done.”

Wilfong said hearing from the attorneys who were upset with her behavior was difficult, but they were correct.

Cooper said Wilfong's relationship with Carter, then the director of the North Central Community Corrections program, had “placed the entire Randolph County criminal bar at peril.” Cooper testified in court he was remiss to be the “judicial rat” in the case, and it was one of the hardest things he has done to file the complaint.

Hearing conclusion

In the closing arguments, David Jividen and Rachel Fletcher Cipoletti, representing the Office of Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel, said Wilfong should be punished and admit to all four canons.

“She deserves and should be suspended,” Cipoletti said.

Wilfong's counsel, David Sims, said the facts had been given, but the JIC presented questionable witnesses who were not honest.

Sims said although what Wilfong did was wrong, and she does deserve to be punished, she has suffered enough.

“Let her keep her job,” he said. “When 2016 comes around, if (the public) doesn't have confidence, they won't re-elect her.”

The counsel has seven days from Aug. 11 to file post hearing briefs. The West Virginia Supreme Court will decide if Wilfong should be suspended, or what her punishment should be, based on recommendations from the JIC hearing.

Powered by Frankly