Judge accused of courthouse sex was 'seduced and taken advantage of,' her lawyer says
A West Virginia judge accused of a sexual relationship with a community corrections director was “seduced and taken advantage of,” her lawyer argued in her ethics case before the state supreme court.
The state Judicial Hearing Board has recommended a three-year suspension without pay for Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong; her lawyer, Harry Deitzler, argued that a 60-day suspension is more appropriate, report West Virginia Metro News and the Charleston Daily Mail. The hearing board is also recommending a $20,000 fine.
Wilfong, a Randolph County circuit judge, had a two-year romantic relationship with North Central Community Corrections Director William Travis Carter that included in-chambers trysts between court proceedings, the Judicial Conduct Board found. Carter has since resigned.
Deitzler told the state supreme court there were only two instances of sexual conduct at the courthouse, and the affair didn’t affect the judge’s impartiality. He also said the judge was seduced.
“I’m not using it as an excuse,” Deitzler said. “The perception unquestionably is she was seduced and taken advantage of.”
According to the Judicial Conduct Board’s findings (PDF), Wilfong sentenced criminal defendants to the North Central Community Corrections Program, and was an ex-officio member of its board. Carter or his staffers testified in Wilfong’s court 46 times.
At times, judicial staffers had to interrupt Carter and Wilfong in her judicial chambers to insist she continue with court proceedings, the hearing board said. Wilfong also enlisted the assistance of two criminal defense lawyers, both of whom appeared before Wilfong, so she could use their home and garage to meet Carter, the board concluded.
Dietzler told the supreme court there is “no question” that Wilfong should be sanctioned. “But to take her job away, to take away her ability to support her family, to fine her an amount that is catastrophically devastating to her” is unfair, he said.
Typo corrected on Oct. 23.