CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court has upheld the suspension of Kanawha County Magistrate Jack Pauley over irregularities in two different cases that concluded with the deaths of two men in the criminal justice system.
The court announced its decision Friday afternoon. Justice Margaret Workman did not participate in the consideration or decision, the court said.
Pauley was recommended for a 45-day unpaid suspension, a public censure and payment of the cost of his proceedings with the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission. That recommendation followed a hearing in late November before visiting Judge Alan Moats.
“I take ownership,” Pauley said of the accusations against him.
Magistrate Pauley’s defense attorney, Bill Forbes, and counsel for the Judicial Investigation Commission, Brian Lanham, agreed to his recommended punishment.
That wasn’t the end of the process, though.
Judge Moats reported back to the full Judicial Investigation Commission, which consists of nine members, mostly from a variety of levels of the state judiciary. That body wound up agreeing to the punishment that had been recommended already.
That recommendation then moved on to the Supreme Court, which had the options of accepting or changing the punishment for Pauley. The court, too, wound up accepting the initial recommendation.
Pauley was accused of a range of misdeeds, including approving a domestic violence petition with no knowledge of the facts of the case, leaving his post an hour early without informing anyone when a police officer needed to file an arrest warrant and taking over a case from another magistrate and letting a suspect go free.
Two suspects in the court system died after alleged actions or inactions by Pauley, which investigators said was a consideration in the recommended 45-day suspension.
Pauley has served as a Kanawha magistrate for 26 years and most recently won re-election in 2016, running unopposed for the Kanawha Magistrate Court Division 4 seat. Ninety-nine write-in votes were cast against him.
Two complaints were filed against Pauley, one on Sept. 8, 2016, and the second on April 21, 2017.
Pauley actually has faced three charges, though.
The first charge resulted from what happened when Pauley was working the 4 p.m. to midnight shift on August 25, 2016.
That evening, Kanawha resident Brandie Martin went to file a domestic violence petition against Housein Keaton. She filled out the petition only partially and turned it in to Mary Frampton, Pauley’s assistant.
The petition she submitted didn’t include the full information necessary to establish the evidence of immediate present and danger of abuse, including any statement of facts.
Pauley relied on Frampton to make sure the petition was filled out fully. But, according to the charges against Pauley, “Ms. Frampton either did not read the petition or missed the omissions.
“Because he incorrectly trusted Ms. Frampton to properly review the petition, Respondent himself failed to read the document to determine if clear and convincing evidence existed but instead signed the document without reviewing it.”
In an order entered at 9:55 p.m., Pauley granted an emergency protective order.
Even that, Pauley didn’t fully fill out:
“Under the mandatory relief session, he did not list anyone for Mr. Keaton to refrain from abusing; and he failed to order that Mr. Keaton divest himself of firearms despite an indication in the petition that Mr. Keaton owned or possessed guns.”
It got worse as Pauley was asked to recount what happened to the Judicial Investigation Commission.
On Sept. 21, 2016, the commission requested a written response from Pauley, asking how he had found clear and convincing evidence without any statement of facts written in the petition. A week later, Pauley submitted a response that Martin had brought a written statement of facts with her when she came to to night court.
Then on March 6, 2017, Pauley gave a sworn statement to the counsel for the Judicial Investigation Commission.
He couldn’t remember if Martin provided a written narrative or a described her story verbally. The latter would not be allowed under the rules of practice and procedure for domestic violence civil proceedings.
“Respondent eventually admitted that he did not author his written response to the JIC,” according to the the formal charges against Pauley. “Respondent asked Ms. Frampton to type a response based on what she could remember about the August 25, 2016, incident.
“Respondent reviewed and signed Ms. Frampton’s version of events thereby adopting them as if they were his own.”
The second charge resulted from the events late on August 25, 2016, and involved the same suspect, Keaton.
At 11 p.m., Pauley and Frampton left night court, an hour before their shift was supposed to end at midnight and in violation of an administrative order established a decade before that established the night court hours as 4 p.m. to midnight.
Pauley didn’t contact another magistrate to come in to cover for him.
Sometime after Pauley left but before midnight, Charleston Police Cpl. David Dalton brought a criminal complaint and an arrest warrant against Housein Keaton — the same guy who prompted a domestic violence petition in the earlier situation with Pauley — to night court to be reviewed, signed and issued.
“Unable to have the complaint signed and the warrant issued because no magistrate was on duty, Cpl. Dalton was forced to leave the paperwork in a box outside Magistrate Court to be reviewed the following morning.”
What happened next isn’t actually written in the formal complaint against Pauley: Keaton was shot and killed just after 2 a.m. Aug. 26 — hours after Dalton was seeking an arrest warrant.
As WCHS-TV reported: “Court documents indicated that Keaton was wanted for a domestic assault charge that was lodged against him Thursday evening by his ex-girlfriend. The criminal complaint said Keaton was armed when his chased down the woman and threatened to kill her. The charge was filed and dismissed Friday after he was found dead.”
The third charge stemmed from events that started July 27, 2016.
That day, suspect Joshua Miles was brought in on charges of violating a domestic violence protective order, obstructing an officer and battery on a police officer. The case was initially assigned to a different magistrate, Julie Yeager.
On Sept. 22, 2016, Miles entered a guilty plea to the domestic violence charge. Yeager assigned him to 6 months in jail but suspended the sentence and placed him on 12 months of unsupervised probation, including Day report and an assessment with Prestera behavioral health.
His probation was revoked on March 8 when Magistrate Yeager discovered at a hearing that Miles had failed a drug test and did not complete the Day Report program.
Magistrate Yeager on April 5 mailed out notices to appear to lawyers on both sides for Miles’ status hearing, which was set for April 24.
On April 6, an assistant prosecutor filed a motion to withdraw the state’s motion to revoke probation.
Then on April 12, Magistrate Yeager called in sick. An assistant prosecutor and assistant public defender asked to have Magistrate Yeager’s assistant, Lisa Good, bring Miles’ file into day court, where Pauley was on duty.
“Respondent listened to a very brief request by the State and Defendant’s attorney on the State’s motion. Respondent then granted the motion and signed a jail release order for Mr. Miles despite the fact that the case belonged to Magistrate Yeager.
“Respondent did not attempt to contact Magistrate Yeager about handling the motion in her absence.”
That violated one of the Administrative Rules for Magistrate Courts saying that no magistrate may conduct hearings or enter orders in a case assigned to another magistrate except upon consent of the magistrate to whom the case is assigned or upon order of a higher court.
There was also more to that story than what was written in the judicial complaint. Miles died in his South Central Regional Jail cell, an apparent suicide. He had not yet been released because a fax from Pauley failed to send.
On May 2, a judicial investigations commission investigator asked Pauley what happened. Pauley acknowledged knowing the case was not assigned to him even though he’d acquired it, heard it and ruled on it in short order.
“When asked by the JIC investigator why he agreed to hold the hearing and signed Mr. Miles release despite it not being his case, Respondent stated ‘I do it all the time. If I didn’t do it, we wouldn’t get anything done.’”