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Dyroff pleads guilty to misdemeanor, resigns

June 28, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Kristy Dyroff pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to a misdemeanor count of false swearing and resigned as a Berkeley County magistrate, but later disputed a statement by the county's prosecutor that she resigned in disgrace.

Dyroff, who served as a magistrate since 2000, was ordered to pay a $100 fine and court costs. Five other charges filed against her - forgery of a public document, uttering, destruction of a public document, intimidation by fraudulent process and fraudulent process - were dismissed as part of the plea bargain.

During a 35-minute hearing before Circuit Judge David Sanders, Dyroff admitted that the charge of false swearing was true, saying she lied under oath during a hearing March 21 concerning a subpoena issued to her son, Wesley Greer.

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The subpoena - which police alleged in court records was a forgery Dyroff asked her assistant to create - was issued to Wesley Greer in connection with a case involving his father - Dyroff's ex-husband, David Greer.

David Greer had been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and domestic battery after police said he provided alcohol to his teenage daughter and then tried to forcefully pull her from a car.

During the hearing Monday, Dyroff answered "yes, sir" and "no, sir" to a series of standard questions asked of all people pleading guilty to a charge.

Sanders told Dyroff that pleading guilty to false swearing means she never again can hold public office in West Virginia.

"It is considered a crime of moral turpitude," Sanders told Dyroff.

He also commented on the intelligence and talents Dyroff brought to her position.

"What has brought us here today is a sad thing," he said, noting that Dyroff was the highest vote-getter in the nine-way magistrate's race in November 2004.

Dyroff had been suspended from her position without pay since her arrest in March.

After the hearing, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said the resolution of the case allows the courts to move forward. A new magistrate will be appointed to fill Dyroff's seat - one of five magistrate positions in the county.

Games-Neely said she agreed to resolve the case through a plea bargain, provided Dyroff agreed to plead guilty rather than no contest, and that she resigned.

"The integrity of the court has to be preserved," she said.

Games-Neely said she understands that a $100 fine might seem like a minimal penalty, but that the resignation is far more serious.

"The punishment, no matter who it is, it is far worse for her to resign in disgrace," she said.

Dyroff declined to make a statement in court, but agreed to be interviewed by The Herald-Mail afterward in the office of her attorney, Kevin Mills.

Sitting beside her sister and holding hands with her husband, a West Virginia State Police trooper, Dyroff discussed the case, her tenure as a magistrate, her family and her plans for the future.

'With dignity'


Dyroff's attorney said he strongly disagreed with Games-Neely's statement, made before the judge and to reporters afterward, that Dyroff resigned in disgrace.

Because many of the allegations would have been contested had the case gone before a jury for trial, the matter could have dragged on for more than a year.

"That would have been a disgrace, in our view," Mills said.

Instead, Dyroff chose to admit that she made a mistake and chose to put the matter behind her, for her family's sake and for the good of the community, Mills said.

"She stepped up and admitted the poor judgment that she exercised," Mills said.

Dyroff said the subpoena in question was needed because her son told her on the Friday before the status hearing that to testify he would need a work excuse for his boss.

"I was trying to help him, that was the whole point," she said.

The most hurtful aspect to the case, she said, was the intimation that she was trying to force her son to testify against his father.

"That wasn't the case. That was never the case," she said.

'What I felt was right'


During her tenure as magistrate, Dyroff presided over cases involving criminal charges ranging from murder to simple traffic offenses. Magistrates also handle civil cases and issue search warrants and arrest warrants.

Dyroff said she made it a goal to bring integrity to her job.

"I'm proud of the fact that I didn't shy away from controversial issues, didn't buckle to political pressure," she said. "I simply tried to be guided by what I felt was right."

A defense attorney unprepared for court once told Dyroff that she set high standards that he did not feel he could reach. Dyroff responded that she set standards no higher than she would for herself.

"I tried very hard to raise the level of accountability and respectability to Magistrate Court," she said.

Agreeing to plead guilty to the charge meant that Dyroff's children would not be forced to sit through - and possibly testify during - her trial, she said.

She also said she did not believe she could continue working in the justice field, since her opinion of the court system is now jaded.

She said she plans to return to college and allow her husband's career as a State Police trooper to be a priority. The couple plans to move to another part of the state.

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