By Shawn Stinson
MOOREFIELD – A circuit court judge is facing new disciplinary charges related to an August 2021 incident at the Walmart in Moorefield.
Members of the Judicial Investigation Commission on Feb. 14 filed a formal statement of charges against C. Carter Williams, a judge on the 22nd Judicial Circuit. The 22nd Judicial Circuit includes Hampshire, Hardy and Pendleton counties.
Authorities allege Williams left the Walmart on Aug. 18, 2021, without paying for approximately 10 items in the self-checkout line.
Moorefield Police Chief Stephen Riggleman was called to the Walmart nearly a month following the incident involving Williams to investigate a suspicious vehicle. During his investigation of the vehicle, Riggleman was informed by the store’s loss prevention officer of the issue with Williams walking out without paying for the items.
Riggleman requested to watch the surveillance video of Williams exiting the store without paying for the items. In his report, Riggleman noted he contacted Hardy County Prosecuting Attorney Lucas See regarding the incident.
“Due to this investigation, it was determined that the best course of action would be to contact Williams and direct him to pay for the merchandise,” Riggleman wrote in the report.
See contacted Williams via text message asking if he would be in the office. Williams responded he would not due to an individual having exposure to COVID-19 in his household. See requested to speak with Williams on the phone. Follow-up text messages between the pair the next two days confirmed the cost of the items was $44.21 and there were arrangements to pick up a check from Williams for Walmart.
Riggleman added in his report that the Walmart loss prevention officer said upon reviewing the August 2021 incident, Williams appeared to accidentally leave the store without paying for the items and declined to file charges.
This is not the first time Williams failed to pay for items before leaving the Moorefield Walmart. Williams was alleged to have failed to pay for self-scanned items in July 2020. The items were valued at nearly $300. Walmart officials also said it was accidental as Williams appeared “distracted” during both incidents and would “get to talking to somebody and not pay” for the items before walking out of the store.
There are questions if there was a similar incident the previous year involving Williams and the Walmart in Moorefield. The latest Formal Statement of Charges includes text messages between Christine Crites, the loss prevention officer at Walmart, and Williams. The pair exchanged messages in early August 2019.
“Thank you very much for letting me know about my payment issue from yesterday,” Williams wrote in a text message. “I just paid it. My sincere apologies for the inconvenience to you all at Walmart. I had absolutely no idea I did that. Thank you again. Carter Williams.”
Crites replied to the message and informed Williams incidents like that frequently occur at the store.
“No worries … It happens more often that you would think,” Crites wrote.
Williams responded, “It’s called, having too much clutter in one’s brain.”
Williams was set to go before the Judicial Hearing Board on Feb. 23 from an incident in July 2021 with a Moorefield police officer. Williams is accused of verbally accosting Moorefield Police Officer Deavonta Johnson during July 11, 2021, traffic stop.
Johnson alleged Williams was driving with a cell phone in his right hand. Johnson’s report states Williams quickly identified himself as “Judge Williams” and asked “in an angry tone why he had been stopped.”
During the interaction between the pair, Williams declined to provide his license, registration and insurance to Johnson at least two times. At one point during the exchange, Williams stated Johnson “pulled me over for no reason” and to “give me a ticket.” Johnson discovered Williams’s license had expired several months earlier when he returned to his patrol vehicle.
Williams made a phone call to Lt. Melody Burrows of the Moorefield Police Department during the traffic stop. Burrows was not on duty at the time of the phone call. Williams is alleged to have referred to Johnson as “your boy” several times. Johnson is African American.
Burrows is believed to have told Williams she would contact Johnson and tell him to not issue a ticket. Burrows reached Johnson, who was still in his patrol car, requesting him to not write a ticket to Williams. Johnson returned to Williams’s vehicle and attempted to return the registration, insurance and license. Williams is alleged to have grabbed the items and drove off without waiting for Johnson to release him.
In addition to calling Burrows during the traffic stop, Williams is alleged to have called Riggleman, who was also off duty at the time, Steve Reckart, the former Moorefield police chief, and Burrows following the incident. Williams is also alleged to have driven to the home of Carol Zuber, Moorefield’s mayor, to discuss the incident.
During the phone call with Reckart, Williams stated Johnson should not be a police officer due to an allegation of a wanton endangerment in 2020 in Mineral County. Johnson was off duty at the time of the incident and the charge was later dismissed without prejudice.
Riggleman is said to have met with See to inquire about filing a motion to disqualify Williams from hearing any of his department’s cases. See contacted a former circuit court judge for advice. Donald Cookman told See to gather all the information and submit it to Chief Circuit Judge Charles Carl as well as the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Williams was informed of these actions and elected to self-report himself on July 15, 2021, to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Members of the counsel were working on the case at the time, but informed Williams he could submit his own report.
Riggleman would later issue a traffic ticket to Williams charging him with improper use of a cell phone and driving without a valid license.
The judicial complaint against Williams cites additional traffic stops. The investigators concluded there is probable cause Williams has engaged in a pattern and practice of using his public office for private gain and violated state traffic laws. Investigators cited several instances of Williams failing to be issued a ticket for running a stop sign, letting his vehicle registration expire and failing to wear a seat belt.
Williams’s hearing is now scheduled for 9:30 a.m. June 14 in the Berkeley County Judicial Center in Martinsburg. Williams’ possible punishment ranges from admonishment, a fine, a suspension or the loss of his law license.
Williams is a native of Hardy County and received his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in 1988 and his law degree three years later from the WVU College of Law. He was elected to the bench in the 22nd Judicial Circuit in May 2016 and was sworn into office in 2017 for an eight-year term.