A Raleigh County magistrate is accused of improperly involving himself in pending cases, including a state investigation into his conduct, according to charges filed by the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission earlier this month.
Among other things, Stephen Massie allegedly interfered in a domestic violence case involving his magistrate assistant, showing up at an active crime scene and transporting a possible defendant in the case from the scene to the West Virginia State Police detachment in Beckley.
Massie also allegedly told a State Police trooper there wasn’t anything wrong with him giving the man a ride just four days before the trooper was scheduled to give a statement to the commission about Massie’s conduct.
Massie is accused of violating 11 rules of the state Judicial Code of Conduct, largely dealing with his compliance with the law, according to the charges issued by the commission on Oct. 3. The commission’s deputy counsel, Brian Lanham, filed the statement of charges with the West Virginia Supreme Court on Oct. 7.
Massie’s response to the charges had not yet been filed Thursday, but the statement of charges indicates he has complied with the investigation.
In November 2018, a domestic violence petition was filed against Massie’s magistrate assistant, Donnie Plumley. Raleigh County Sheriff’s Deputy F.K. Myers was assigned to served the petition.
Under questioning from the commission, Myers said Massie was present at Plumley’s residence and was “trying to stick up for Donnie (Mr. Plumley),” including telling the deputy that the woman who filed the petition was “manipulating the system, that she filed the DVP out of spite, and that it should be considered harassment,” Lanham wrote in the statement of charges.
Myers said he completed a police report alleging harassment against the woman because he felt pressured by Massie to do so, he told the commission.
The petition was dismissed in Raleigh County Family Court the next month, after the woman said she did not want to pursue the matter any further, Lanham said in a footnote in the statement of charges.
Massie told the commission he went to Plumley’s house because he was concerned about what would happen to Plumley’s guns in light of the petition, and that he only was there to retrieve the key to Plumley’s gun safe. Massie also denied telling Myers to investigate harassment charges against the woman who filed the petition.
Massie also is accused of directing Plumley to take pleas in criminal citations, which, as a magistrate assistant, he is not authorized to do.
Massie also is accused of intervening in a battery case involving Mark Keaton, a dispatcher for the State Police in Raleigh County, who is a friend of Massie, Lanham said.
Keaton was convicted of two counts of battery and sentenced to 30 days in jail and $250 in fines for his role in an altercation at his father-in-law’s home in August 2018, according to the statement of charges.
Massie admitted giving Keaton a ride from the scene of the crime to the State Police detachment and talking to another magistrate, an assistant prosecutor and Keaton’s defense attorney as the case progressed through magistrate court.
Massie told the commission he didn’t think his conduct was improper.
Massie also went to the crime scene at Keaton’s parents’ home in December 2014, when a woman was shot and killed as she attempted to break into the house. Sheriff’s deputies did not file any charges in that case, determining that the shooting was committed in self-defense.
Additionally, Massie is accused of facilitating an unannounced search of the home of a man who was part of Veteran’s Court in Raleigh County, over which Massie presides in magistrate court.
In April 2018, Massie asked troopers to accompany him to the man’s home, where the troopers conducted a search while Massie sat with the man in question.
As a result of the search, the man was arrested for possession of a controlled substance.
Massie told the commission he went to the man’s house and often took law enforcement officers with him to Veteran’s Court participants’ homes to conduct searches, some of which had resulted in arrests.
Massie has 30 days to file a response to the statement of charges. He also has a right to a hearing before the commission’s Judicial Hearing Board within 120 days from the date the statement of charges was filed. The hearing had not been scheduled as of Thursday.
If board members find Massie violated any rules, they may recommend that the Supreme Court discipline him, which could include potential admonishment, suspension from work, and payment of the cost of proceedings in his case.
Raleigh County voters elected Massie in 2004. He is one of five magistrates serving the county.