PutnamLIVE.com Brings The Issue Into The Open
There was a time when people didn't talk about domestic violence. It was one of those "dirty little secrets." Here in Putnam County, the weekly newspapers rarely report about domestic violence-if at all. It's as if the issue will go away if it's not reported.
Here at PutnamLIVE.com we don't ignore crime. Domestic violence is a crime. Whether it's man on woman, woman on man, parents on children or children abusing their parents, domestic violence is a crime. Therfore, PutnamLIVE.com reports about domestic violence while other publications ignore the crime.
Recently we learned about a great fact sheet about domestic violence. So we are sharing it with you because knowledge is power and we hope that with more knowledge less people will become victims of domestic violence.
Judge Refused To Let Dying Grandmother/Grandson Visit
Fresh off his apparent victory over The Putnam County Screamer, Mark Hallburn, Publisher of PutnamLIVE.com is using the legal system to target who he says is another out-of-control Family Court Judge, Michael J. Kelly, of Kanawha County.
Wednesday afternoon, December 5th, 2012, Hallburn filed a federal Office of Civil Rights complaint against Kelly because the judge demanded Hallburn's mother's medical records in order for a visit to take place with Hallburn's then four-year-old son.
"I told Kelly that we could not get the records, due to HIPAA regulations," says Hallburn. "No judge should even think about asking for private medical records in order for a dying grandmother to see her grandson. Kelly has crossed the line of the laws of statutes, common sense, and common decency. Mentally stable judges do not keep dying grandmothers from their grandchildren."
Nancy Halburn died August 5th, 2012, in Fullerton, California, weeks after Kelly denied the trip. Her grandson was not able to visit her. Kelly went so far as to say, in court, that there was no value in a four-year-old seeing his grandmother.
This complaint could make federal legal history.
"Even if I do not prevail in the legal system, most people will see Kelly for who he is and defeat him in the 2016 election-if he runs," Hallburn says. "I don't think even Chip Watkins would have been stupid enough to keep a dying grandmother from seeing her grandson."
PutnamLIVE.com will report on the outcome of the complaint. Later in the week Hallburn plans to file complaints about Kelly and the West Virginia Supreme Court with the West Virginia Judicial Investigative Commission.
"They've blown their handling of Kelly and Watkins," says Hallburn. "Thanks to their inability to properly manage the court system, West Virginians have been abused."
If you have video of any judge acting inappropriately, please email News@PutnamLIVE.com or telephone 304-415-NEWS. If you believe Kelly should be canned, please telephone the West Virginia Supreme Court at 304-558-0145.
Cites His Body Language To Hallburn During Hearing
The Putnam County Screamer is one-step closer to becoming a former judge.
In a scathing order, the Judicial Disciplinary Hearing Board has recommended a suspension-without-pay- for the remainder of Putnam County Family Law Judge William M. "Chip" Watkins term-through December 31st, 2016.
The recommendation goes to The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals which has the final say on whether it is implemented. Watkins has 30 days to respond to the board's recommendation. Some thing he will take a disability retirement, citing his alleged heart problems rather than take a career-ending suspension.
The board specifically cited Watkins' arrogant response to complainant Mark Hallburn, who spoke during the hearing. Hallburn had to tell Watkins to face him "like a man" only to have Watkins briefly turn to Hallburn then turn away.
"This is a great day for the people of Putnam County," says Hallburn, who publishes PutnamLIVE.com. "I am proud to say that PutnamLIVE.com was the leader in publishing video of Watkins verbally trashing Pastor Arthur D. Hage, a video that went viral, including a Fox News episode. Watkins embarassed Putnam County and West Virginia. Now it's his turn to be embarassed. I hope the supreme court rubber-stamps the remaining-term suspension and sends Watkins packing. Now it's time to target the other bad judges-including Michael J. Kelly."
Complainant Robert R. "Bob" Harper, Sr., who also spoke during the hearing, was not available for comment. Watkins had his back turned to Harper during the entire time that Harper spoke. Prior to this news, Hallburn and Harper sent a letter to the West Virginia Supreme Court recommending that Watkins be suspended for one year for each of his admitted violations-and that the suspension run consecutively.
"I think they (the hearing board) made the right decision," says Hage, who was verbally abused by Watkins in the video below. "I don't think there's any other decision that they can make and be honest with the people. There's no way that anybody can justify what Watkins has done. He has destroyed so many people's lives, especially my own. I would ask that they reconsider my situtation."Because I've lost my family over this."
"Awesome! Awesome!" says Lambert. "That is just awesome, which is all I can say. I just hope that supreme court takes the recommendation." In the video below, Watkins calls Lambert a "stupid woman."
"That's incredible news" says Robert Werner, State Coordinator for Florida and new York Fathers for Justice. "This is an epidemic that has plagued the 50 states. We will fight for the equality needed and we are pleased so see such progress in The State of West Virginia."
The board's recommendation is a slap-in-the-face of Rachael Fletcher Cipoletti, the prosecutor in the case. She recommended a 90-day suspension for Watkins, which would be stayed while he proved himself on the bench for 90 days. Hallburn and Harper have called for her, and Supreme Court Administrator Steven Canterbury-who initially failed to charge Watkins, to be fired.
Assuming the supreme court cans Watkins, the next question is, who will replace him? Traditionally a person from the same political party is selected.
Watkins is a Republican. During the May 2012 primary election, former Putnam Circuit Judge Norbert "Ed" Eagloski, (R) ran unsucessfully for the seat vacated by Orville C. "Hobby" Spaulding. Eagloski was defeated by Joseph K. "Joe" Reeder who won the November general election.
PutnamLIVE.com spoke to Eagloski
just days before the board's recommendation. He declined to comment about whether he has been approached about Watkins seat and declined to comment about whether or not he has an interest in the position. Whoever is appointed will likely only serve a one-year term before a special election is held, which is what happened in Spaulding's case as well as the case of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd's seat.
State Is Protecting The Putnam County Screamer
During the disciplinary hearing for Putnam County Family Court Judge William M. "Chip" Watkins, III, one of the members of the Judicial Hearing Board, that sat in the jury box, is a familiar face-in Putnam County. Senior Status Circuit Judge Robert Chafin presided over the Walmart construction lawsuit filed by PutnamLIVE.com Publisher Mark Hallburn, and his wife, Dolores. Because they alleged psychological stress, reports were ordered for each. Chafin ordered that they be made public.
Not so for Judge Watkins.
In another exhibit of the double-standard and "Good old Boy" system at work, Watkins' report has been sealed from public view by the Judicial Hearing Board. When PutnamLIVE.com filed a Freedom of Information Act request, shortly after Watkins' hearing, it was rejected by Counsel Rachael Fletcher Cipoletti who acted as the prosecutor for the case.
"I attempted to advise you over the telephone the information that you seek was sealed by the Judicial Hearing Board in this morning's judicial disciplinary trial," Fletcher Cipoletti writes in an email. "By law, I am not permitted to break the seal."
"This is another example of a fatal flaw in the disciplinary system," states Hallburn, who was one of the victims that spoke against Watkins. "Citizens have their psych exams made public. A judge is protected. Because he sits in judgment, and his decisions affect people, families, and children, the people of Putnam County should be able to learn about Watkins' psychiatric situation-especially in light of his many instances of screaming at people from his bench."
PutnamLIVE.com plans to file a lawsuit over this issue. We will report on the status of this situation as it develops.
Counsel Made Recommendation Weeks Before Hearing
The Putnam County Screamer isn't going anywhere.
Family Law Judge William M. "Chip" Watkins, III, remains on his bench. If he's well behaved, a 90-day suspension won't take place. That's the recommendation of the discipline counsel. A hearing committee will send its recommendation to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals for final approval. The court can rubber-stamp the recommendation or take its own action.
But wait, there's more:
The document outlining the charges and recommended discipline sanctions was faxed November 13th, 2012, two weeks before Watkins' disciplinary hearing took place, November 27th.
"The document speaks for itself," says Chief Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel Rachael L. Fletcher Cipoletti, who "prosecuted" the case before examiner Lawrence Miller, Jr. She did not allow witnesses to speak, because, she says, Watkins admits to all the charges. She did not explain why the sanctions were recommended weeks before the hearing.
While on the witness stand, Watkins blamed his heart condition, and his wife's back surgery for his behavior, and cites his decade of service as a judge as well as his desire to improve as reasons to stay on the job.
"I believe the 10 years I've served I've done an outstanding job and also believe I have made mistakes," says Watkins. "I'd like the opportunity to correct those mistakes."
His victims weren't buying Watkins suddenly apologetic tone.
PutnamLIVE.com Publisher Mark Hallburn and Robert R. "Bob" Harper, Sr., addressed the court-for up to five minutes each.
However, two others, who filed complaints which have not resulted in charges, were not allowed to speak.
They are Troy Sexton and Margaret Farmer.
Body language speaks volumes. During the testimony of Harper, Watkins sat with his back to Harper. It wasn't until Hallburn told Watkins to face him that Watkins looked Hallburn in the eye-but just for a few seconds.
Watkins must repay nearly $18,000 in costs for the investigation and hearing.
"It's a sham," says Hallburn-after the hearing. "He doesn't have to serve the suspension. They need to disband this system and put a civilian review board in place. It's just the good old boys taking care of the (backsides) of good old boys. Watkins should be removed from the bench."
Watkins spoke on the stand and apologized to some of his victims but did not apologize to Hallburn, whose publication of the Arthur D. Hage hearing video started the avalanch of negative publicity,
"It's bull(censored), because he's still getting paid," says Harper. "The fine, I don't think he will pay because he will make excuses about his wife. His apoloiHe is a damned liar.
Pastor Arthur D. Hage, whose video went viral after PutnamLIVE.com published it, was present but did not address the panel. "My reaction is that it's wrong. I think that (Chief Justice) Menis Ketchum, who is on the supreme court, gave him amnesty," Hage said later. "It's a hoax. I think it's all a sham. I think the court system needs to be redone from Putnam County to Charleston."
Tammy Jo Lambert, who Watkins called "A stupid woman" and told her to "shut your fat face," in her hearing, stayed home. When PutnamLIVE.com told her that Watkins is being allowed to stay on the bench, she was furious. "I'm just really upset that Judge Watkins is still allowed to be a judge. I think that with all the abuse that he dished out, that even though they supposedly have ordered anger management, they should not entrust him with the power that he has as a judge."
The photographs in this article were captured from the pool video. Miller violated The First Amendment by not allowing individual photographers.
PutnamLIVE.com has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for Watkins' psychiatric exam to Fletcher Cipoletti. She says it has been sealed and that our request will be denied.
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