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Petition calls for Riffle's ouster

March 01, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A three-judge panel will convene this month to consider removing suspended Morgan County Magistrate Bonnie Riffle from her position.

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Riffle has been convicted of two felonies and five misdemeanors. Last October, she was found guilty of making up a story about two men attacking her in her office in February 1999, then collecting workers' compensation benefits.

On Feb. 24, at the Morgan County Courthouse, Hampshire County Circuit Court Judge Donald Cookman sentenced Riffle to five years of probation, fined her $1,000 and ordered her to repay $1,690 in workers' compensation benefits.

He also imposed 2 1/2 consecutive years of jail and prison time, but suspended it.

West Virginia Code states that a magistrate "may be removed from office for conviction of a felony (or) for conviction of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude."

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Jerry Moore of Pendleton County, the special prosecutor in Riffle's case, filed a petition for her removal.

Riffle, who was elected magistrate in 1992, said Wednesday she "most certainly" will try to save her job by defending herself at the removal hearing. It will take place at the Morgan County Courthouse on March 17 at 9 a.m.

She has maintained all along that the charges against her are false. Her attorney is preparing an appeal of her conviction, but is awaiting some of the trial transcript, she said.

State code says that the chief judge of a circuit must forward a petition for removal to the state's Supreme Court of Appeals and ask that three circuit judges hear the case.

The three circuit judges who will preside at Riffle's hearing are Andrew N. Frye Jr. of the 21st circuit (Grant, Mineral and Tucker counties), Lawrance Miller of the 18th circuit (Preston County) and Robert B. Stone of the 17th circuit (Monongalia County).

It will be an open session, according to Michelle T. Mensore, the information services director for the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The panel's decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals, according to state code.

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