Putnam County, West Virginia Court Officials Are Blasted In Editorial
By Mark Hallburn
In a scathing editorial, much of which contains language PutnamLIVE.com will not publish, the Gilmer County Free Press takes aim at Putnam County Family Court Judge William M. "Chip" Watkins, III, and West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Administrator Steven D. Canterbury.
“I think the judge is embarrassed and certainly contrite about his outburst, and I think he has rightfully recused himself,” Canterbury is quoted as saying.
"Really?! You have to be kidding me right… contrite? “Disgusting! What if Judge Watkins had killed someone? Would it relieve him of consequences because he is contrite?" the Free Press states. “Well now, I wonder if any defendants have come before this judge who were relieved of the charges because they were CONTRITE!
“It would seem a shame if contrition were not enough for those defendants, but the same contrition were enough for their judge. Huh… only in West Virginia where they all hold degree’s from WVU the University that gives degree’s away if you are part of the local power elite!
"After screaming at the pastor to “Shut up” and accusing him of feeding a negative story about Watkins to the media, Watkins adds, “Because of you, my wife is there alone, and my house has been vandalized four times. You realize that, of course, as I’m sure you’re probably in on it and laughing about it.”
Watkins falsely thought that Pastor Art Hage was behind an article publishing that Watkins threatened Lawrence Smith, a freelance reporter. Hage had nothing to do with the article or this photograph of Watkins' home which has a published address and is not located in a gate community:
The judge continues by saying “You, you disgusting piece of …” and “I swear to you. You’re responsible. I’m holding you personally responsible for anything that happens to my house.”
In what appears to be the world’s most obvious point, Watkins states, “I promise you that if I see so much as anyone blanketing my home, my wife, my family, you and me are going to have a problem. …”
Notably, Watkins appears to start to recuse himself after saying “Well, buddy, it’s personal. It’s personal, and I can promise you, you will not hear the end of if from me.”
It would seem recusal at that point is inevitable. However, Watkins stops himself and again starts to beat up on the pastor, including some remarkable threats … “Please understand that. I will resign this bench and I will personally see to it that you never see a free day in your life. Do you understand? You’re going to jail,. I swear to God.”
The Free Press states, "Watkins is embarrassed after becoming an Internet sensation. However, the video reveals conduct that is shocking and raises serious questions about Watkins’ suitability as a judge. Notably, absent such a video, it is doubtful that the pastor could have forced a recusal in the case. While most judges in this country are professional and civil, we often see judges behaving badly in court by unnecessarily berating and screaming at both lawyers and litigants."
The comments made in the Free Press editorial are public, but remarkably similar to many made privately about Watkins and Canterbury by people who are outraged at their conduct but afraid of retaliation by Watkins and the West Virginia Family Court system.
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