Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 16, 2014

Outcome of magistrate investigation not yet public

PRINCETON — The results of a Judicial Investigations Commission probe of a Mercer County magistrate who engaged in a racy Facebook message thread with a woman who appeared before him in court have not yet been made public.

Richard D. “Rick” Fowler came under scrutiny in September of 2013 when the message thread was posted on social media sites. The Judicial Investigations Commission cannot confirm nor deny that an investigation has taken place. However, the Daily Telegraph has learned from multiple sources that an agent of the commission was in Mercer County in the latter part of 2013 conducting an investigation into Fowler’s actions.

Fowler, too, confirmed the investigation when contacted by the Daily Telegraph Wednesday.

Fowler said he had no details on the specifics of the investigation. “I really don’t even know when they (the Judicial Investigations Commission) meet. They don’t tell me anything about it.

“Most of those things with them take a long time,” he said, noting it may be months before results are known.

Fowler said it has been “nerve-wracking” awaiting word on the outcome of the inquiry.

The message thread, of which the Daily Telegraph obtained screenshots, contained graphic sexual banter between Fowler and a Princeton woman, and what appeared to be discussion between the two of meeting for a sexual tryst.

Criminal complaints obtained by the Daily Telegraph show the woman appeared in Fowler’s court on at least three occasions — twice in November 2012 on domestic violence and obstructing an officer charges and once in January of 2013 on a domestic assault charge.

The latter part of the message thread contained a posting by Fowler that read, “This has to be private. If anyone knew... it would keep me frim [sic] being able to help you out with other things in the future. ok? [sic]”

In an earlier interview with the Daily Telegraph, Fowler called the public spotlight on the message thread “kind of ridiculous,” adding, “I’m not married, this girl is not married and we goof around and talk on Facebook. We tease and talk crap.”

He also denied having a sexual relationship with the woman, saying she “is not a girlfriend, has never been.”

Fowler was admonished by the Judicial Investigations Commission in 2012 for an inappropriate relationship with a woman who was the wife and victim of a man who had appeared before him in court, taking a second job without approval from the Supreme Court and lying to the commission’s investigator.

According to the complaint, Fowler began dating the woman “approximately two months after the criminal charges had been resolved against her now ex-husband, but at a time when he was still serving probation.”

Fowler maintains that the recent controversy is politically motivated and was spurred by a political rival who wants his job.

Fowler has served as a magistrate in Mercer County since 2004.

— Contact Perry at

sperry@bdtonline.com

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