Mercer Magistrate ballot 2020

The candidates for Mercer County Magistrate, both incumbent and challengers, shared their views on the issues with the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

PRINCETON — Five incumbents and five challengers are on the 2020 primary election ballot for the office of Mercer County Magistrate.

 All incumbent county magistrates have filed, including Mike Flanigan, District 1; Susan Honaker, District 2; Sandra Dorsey, District 3; Charles Poe, District 4; and William Holroyd, District 5.

Challengers in the non-partisan race for Mercer County magistrates are Perry P. Richmond for District 2; Keith Compton in District 3; and George William Lightfoot and Marvin Lockett for District 5. There is one write-in candidate, Pam Sizemore.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph contacted the candidates and ask them to provide a brief biography along with answers to questions about their qualifications, setting bond in crimes against children/domestic violences case, setting bond in DUI cases and whether jail overcrowding should be considered when setting bond.

Candidate biographies: 

• Mike Flanigan: I was born in Bluefield, W.Va. and raised by my wonderful parents in Glenwood. I attended Bluefield State College and obtained both a bachelors and associates degrees in Criminal Justice. 

• Susan Honaker: I was born and raised in Mercer County. My late husband Keith and I raised our family here. Mercer County is home. Living in a smaller county where everyday you see people you know is what I love!

• Sandra Dorsey:  I was born in Gold Beach, Oregon. I joined the National Guard Military Police at 18 years old. I was a military spouse mainly in Europe and seven states. Since 1996, my extensive education and experience include an ABA Paralegal Associates Degree, family law, mediation and advanced litigation. I worked in law offices and was an apartment manager. I was a member of the Long Beach Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Coalition. I served in the Los Angeles Prosecutor’s Child Abuse Division as an advocate and trained law enforcement agencies in domestic violence dynamics. I worked with perpetrators of crime at the Day Report Center, (2006-2011) and was a CPS contractor in Mercer County before being elected Magistrate in 2012.

• Charles Poe:  I am a life long residence of Mercer Country, born raised in Bluefield WV went to school at Bluefield high and Bluefield State College I have attended the WV State police academy where I was certified as a police officer for the city of Princeton. I have travel to almost every State to bring people back to Mercer County for serious violent crimes they have committed when I was police detective. I retired from Princeton ran for magistrate where I was elected. I have been a magistrate for nearly 11 years and have a total 35 years of experience with Princeton Police Department and Mercer County Magistrate Court.

• William Holroyd : I was born and raised in Mercer County and was educated in Mercer County public schools. I graduated from Princeton High School in 1978. I was awarded the honor of Eagle Scout by the Honorable Judge Howard Jarrett earlier that same year. I attended Marshall University and earned a Bachelors in Political Science. While attending Marshall, I was a member of the Debate Team and a contributing member of the WV Citizen Handbook Publication, writing on topics such as highways, election law and WV law. After graduation, I worked in the construction business concentrating on design, pricing and building.

• Perry Richmond: My first exposure with the criminal justice system was as a student at Bluefield State College from 1985 to 1990. I lived in Hinton at the time and commuted to Bluefield State five days a week while working a full time job at Pipestem State Park.  In 1990 I was hired by the Summers County Sheriff’s Dept. as a corrections officer. In 1994 I was hired by the West Virginia State Police. I graduated from the West Virginia State Police Academy in 1995. I was employed by the West Virginia State Police for three years before resigning and being hired by the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department.

• Keith Compton: I’m a lifelong resident of Mercer County, retired Captain from PPD with 25 years of service. Developed and Instructed the Law & Public Safety program at MCTEC. I have a BS degree in Criminal Justice Administration and an AS in Law Enforcement. I served on 2 Regional Drug Task Forces and was Deputized by the DEA. I have received awards from the US Department of Justice and Commendations from multiple county prosecutors. I also trained extensively in Hostage/Crisis Negotiations in which I used successfully in multiple hostage and suicide situations. I have also volunteered for numerous community service projects as a police officer and as a Rotarian. The project that I was most passionate about was helping lead the Shop with a Cop program for 25 years. 

• George Lightfoot: I was born and raised in Mercer County. I have two sons. I graduated from Bluefield High School in 1987. I graduated from Bluefield State in 1991 with a degree in Criminal Justice. Shorty after graduation I was hired at Bluefield Police Department. After graduating from The WV State Police Academy I worked my way up through the ranks of the police department being promoted several times before retiring in 2018 as the Senior Lieutenant, the highest tested position the department offers.

• Marvin Lockett: I reside in Princeton, W.Va. with my wife, Tonya. I am a father and a grandfather. I studied at Bluefield State College. I am a Christian man who loves the Lord and have been pastoring for over 12yrs. I am the author of an inspirational book entitled “Your Life Matters”.

 • Pam Sizemore: I was born and raised in Mercer County and I am currently seeking a Magistrate position as a write-in candidate in Division 4. I began my career with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department as a corrections officer and worked with the Deputy Marshal Service to transport offenders to court and guarded the federal courtroom during trials. When the county jail closed I continued working as a correctional officer with the Southern Regional Jail. I attended Bluefield State College where I earned a degree in Criminal Justice Administration. I moved to Charlotte NC and served as a probation officer in Gastonia, NC for about two years. I moved back to WV where I worked as a parole officer for approximately six years. I currently work for Fresh Start Family Services as an office manager/supervisor.

What makes you qualified to be a magistrate?

• Mike Flanigan: I have served the citizens of Mercer County as a magistrate since 1996, and I am currently chief magistrate. As a magistrate, I continue to receive additional education through the Supreme Court of Appeals every year. Before running for the position, I served Mercer County for almost a decade as a nationally registered Emergency Medical Technician. It was there I learned the effects of drug addiction, DUI and domestic violence on members of our community. A community that also includes my friends, my family, and myself.


• Susan Honaker: What qualifies myself for Magistrate is I’m currently on my 10th year as Magistrate. The knowledge I’ve gained in the past 10 years along with my Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and my degree in Education. As a concerned citizen I see the everyday struggles that all families deal with, my insight, empathy and good moral compass helps me to make a fair and just decision for the community.  

• Sandra Dorsey: My extensive training and experience prepared me for my first 8 years as Magistrate. I have built professional relationships with county resources that I refer all parties to in order to help improve their lives while minimizing risk to victims. Recently, I volunteered for the additional responsibility and work load as the Mental Health Hygiene Magistrate for 14 months without additional compensation. This is what qualifies me for my next term.

• Charles Poe: I’ve always had a good working relationship with other departments while working cases. My work experience and training far exceeds the qualifications to be a magistrate. 

• William Holroyd: In 2015 I entered the race for Mercer County Magistrate to fill the position vacated by the late and Honorable James Dent. I was elected that same year and have served diligently in that position since.

• Perry Richmond: My educational background and experience in law enforcement give me a foundational qualification for the office of Magistrate, but my actual experience working there has been far more beneficial. I have experienced how Magistrate Court works day to day.

• Keith Compton: My extensive Education/Experience in law enforcement and investigations will bring the skills needed to be a great Magistrate. I will continue to work collaboratively with our community resources where needed. I have spent half my life working in the criminal justice system which includes vast experience in our local, state, and federal court system. 

• George Lightfoot: Over 30 years of law enforcement and leadership experience. Educated “locally” with a BS degree in criminal justice. Not a politician. Professionalism. Integrity. 

• Marvin Lockett: I worked for the WV Supreme Court of Appeals for 14 years in the Mercer County Family Court. I was a Family Law Master Assistant then worked as a Family Court Case Coordinator. I was part of the adjudication of cases involving Child Custody, Support, Visitation, and Domestic Violence. I was appointed to many committees and Task Forces by the WV Supreme Court. I bring to this position knowledge of the law and Judicial Process, as well as Administrative Experience.

• Pam Sizemore: I believe I am fully qualified to be a magistrate because of my experience in the field of corrections and my level of education.

What factors will you consider when setting bond in cases involving crimes against children or domestic violence cases?

Mike Flanigan provided the following reply concerning questions about setting bond in domestic violence cases and DUI as well as jail overcrowding: 

The question of setting bail requires a somewhat complex answer as each case must be reviewed by itself. First of all, bond is not punitive in nature. The conditions of the bail agreement come from a combination of both state and federal law. Primarily bail is to assure the appearance of the defendant to his court appearances.

Other conditions designed to protect victims of crime and the community are just as important. According to West Virginia law, a magistrate may take consideration of the following areas: the seriousness of the offense; the previous criminal record; the defendant’s financial ability; the probability of the Defendants appearance (§62-1C-3.)

The Supreme Court have also trained magistrates to inquire of the defendant: residence and time there; ties to the community; employment; and past criminal history, including appearance failures. The greatest consideration in bail however is the protection of victims. In cases of domestic violence and child abuse special conditions exist to forbid contact. We can use GPS monitoring and home confinement, and ultimately incapacitation through incarceration to help ensure compliance.

Susan Honaker: The most important factor I consider when setting bond for crimes against children or in domestic cases is Safety. Safety for the children and the ones involved in the domestic. Another factor is doing everything within my ability to make sure the abuser has no contact with the victims.

• Sandra Dorsey: I use the current DLAG law to set my bonds. There are 16 high risk indicators of severe injury or death in domestic violence and child abuse cases. Some of the indicators are: serious bodily injury, strangulation, access to deadly weapons, threats of murder or suicide, and rape. High risks equal increased bonds. Home confinement ensures victim safety. My bonds have proven effective.

• Charles Poe:  Cases involving children are priority cases and require professional counseling to protect the integrity of a young child. Bond is usually set at a higher rate to protect interest of a child. No excuse for child abuse. Also no excuse for domestic violence. Court requires a bond to protect a family member. Mercer County has a very high rate of domestic violence. In our state, bond also requires no contact with a victim of any kind even if it’s a close family member.  

• William Holroyd: Among our numerous duties, magistrates are tasked with insuring that those accused attend hearings, pay fines, court costs, serve jail time, and arrange for Home Incarceration and rehabilitation subsequent to arrest and conviction.  

• Perry Richmond: The factors for setting bond is enumerated in West Virginia code 61-1C-3. The seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, his financial ability, and the probability of his appearance. Crimes against children and domestic violence cases are more serious criminal charges and would lend themselves to a higher bond just by meeting the “probable cause” standard during the arraignment process.

• Keith Compton: The seriousness of the crime, past criminal record and any outstanding warrants, probability of the defendant showing up to court, safety of the victims and the public, and guidelines set forth by the WV State Criminal Code.

• George Lightfoot: First and foremost in every crime the victim is your first priority. Some questions you need to ask yourself are: Is the victim in any danger if the accused is released on a low bond? Is there a chance the accused victimizes the same person or another person? Other considerations would include, the severity of the alleged crime and is the accused a flight risk. With children involved in domestic violence cases the crimes could be synonymous. A lot of times the children are eye witnesses to the domestic violence. 

• Marvin Lockett: When considering setting bond in cases involving crimes against children and domestic violence, I would consider the severity or seriousness of the offense, any past criminal record, if the accused has ties to the community, and their probability of appearing at their next hearing.

• Pam Sizemore: I would take into consideration the nature and level of the offense and set bonds as governed by law.

What will you consider when setting bond in cases involving DUI?

Susan Honaker: In setting DUI bonds, I look at their history, the case details and if the defendant is likely to be a flight risk!

• Sandra Dorsey: I consider the alleged perpetrator’s DUI history and blood alcohol content. I use home confinement with high blood alcohol and repeat offenders for increased oversight and keeping them off the road.

• Charles Poe: DUI case’s are a leading factor in deaths in our young people today. These case depends on the totality of the circumstances, meaning the defendants should be released to someone sober after bond. Reasonable bonds are the amount of the fine or no greater then two times the amount of the fine. Bonds are set based on requiring a person will show for court unless there are other circumstances.

• William Holroyd: We are also mindful of other factors such as the safety of the public, victims and the accused. To that end, careful consideration as to bond and bond restriction must be made.

• Perry Richmond: In setting bonds for DUI cases the seriousness is usually reflected in the specific criminal charge. For instance a “DUI with death” would be the most serious and that would be reflected in a higher bond. On the other end of the spectrum a first offense DUI with no extenuating factors would be much less. In setting bonds on these cases the actual harm and the potential harm would reflect a more serious crime and a higher bond.

• Keith Compton: As with the previous answer the same would apply along with the defendant’s level of intoxication or impairment. 

• George Lightfoot: During my career as a police officer I’ve seen DUI cases close up. Ive seen families torn apart as a result of a drunk driver. I was the Highway Safety Coordinator for the Bluefield Police Department during my time there. DUI and drug cases would be a priority of mine and I would set the appropriate bond that matched the severity of the case.

• Marvin Lockett: When considering setting bond in cases involving DUI, I would take in consideration whether this is their first offense or if they have a pattern of DUI, their past criminal record, and if the charge involved an accident, with or without injuries, or property damage.

• Pam Sizemore: I believe DUI is a serious offense, driving impaired endangers the lives of others as well as themselves. I would consider the public safety of our residents and to what degree of the DUI

Do you think jail overcrowding should be taken into consideration when setting bond?

• Susan Honaker: The jail overcrowding should not be taken into consideration when setting a bond, however good judgement should always be used in each individual case!

• Sandra Dorsey: Never. Safety of the victim and community are my top considerations. 

• Charles Poe: I can sympathize with the problem with overcrowded jails it’s a problem everywhere, jail bill is not a consideration when setting bond or sentences; again it’s the totality of the circumstances of why a person is in jail.

 • William Holroyd: In my tenure as Magistrate I have not been approached by anyone concerning jail overcrowding. However, the Supreme Court did issue a memo concerning unreasonable bail as it relates to overcrowding of our regional jails. I personally have not altered my consideration when setting bail as I believe I have been consistent with the interest of Mercer County citizens.

• Perry Richmond: Jail overcrowding continues to a problem in Mercer County. It is my opinion that a magistrate should set bonds according to the above mentioned criteria and compromising that would compromise the integrity of the criminal justice system and potentially put lives at risk.

• Keith Compton: I do not believe that this should be a consideration when setting bonds. We should not allow overcrowding or cost of incarceration override public safety.

• George Lightfoot:  No. I think you have to look at the crime charged and set the appropriate bond. I think its dangerous telling the people of Mercer County you can’t afford to put someone in jail. But you also have to keep in mind that setting bond isn’t intended to determine if someone its guilty or innocent.

• Marvin Lockett: Regarding jail overcrowding. As crime arises so does the rate of incarceration. I believe that upon examination of the defendant, the charge brought against them, and history of criminal behavior (if any), that a determination should be made if the defendant should be released on their own recognizance or as a condition of bond, they be placed on home confinement. These alternatives help prevent jail overcrowding.• 

• Pam Sizemore: It would depend on the nature and severity of the crime weather or not the person is a flight risk. In the event the jail was filled to capacity I definitely would look into an alternate form of confinement such as, house arrest for non-violent offenses.

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