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September 26, 2013

Magistrate investigated for racy Facebook messages to defendant

PRINCETON, W.Va. — A magistrate in southern West Virginia is under investigation after his racy Facebook messages with a woman who has appeared in his courtroom were made public.

Screenshots of private messages between Mercer County Magistrate Richard "Rick" Fowler and the woman include graphic conversations and apparent plans to meet for sex. Criminal records indicate the woman appeared in Fowler’s court three times in the past year on various charges, including domestic violence and obstructing an officer.

"This has to be private," Fowler said in a message, according to a screenshot shared with the Bluefield (W.Va.) Daily Telegraph. "If anyone knew.....it would keep me frim [sic] being able to help you out with other things in the future. ok? [sic]"

Fowler said the messages were taken out of context and are part of a plot by a political rival to get him out of office. The local prosecutor has asked the sheriff's department to investigate.

Fowler called the investigation "kind of ridiculous."

"I'm not married, this girl is not married and we goof around and talk on Facebook. We tease and talk crap," he said. "…Outside of a court hallway, I’ve never seen her — even in Walmart."

Fowler said he tries to help everyone who comes before him. "I'd do a favor for the devil if he needed it. My theory is if you help someone and never see them again, it worked."

Last year, Fowler was admonished by the state Judicial Investigation Commission for an inappropriate relationship with a woman who was the wife and victim of a man who had appeared before him.

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."

When asked by an investigator about the relationship, "Magistrate Fowler maintained that he never dated the wife/victim," the complaint states. Later, in a second interview, Fowler admitted having a personal relationship with the woman.

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

Details for this story were reported by The Bluefield (W.Va.) Daily Telegraph.

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