ELKINS - Possible ramifications to the county's legal system were top of mind for local officials a day after a Randolph County Circuit Court judge admitted to having a relationship with the head of a regional alternative sentencing program.
Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong of the 20th District told The Inter-Mountain Wednesday that she had been involved with Travis Carter, the head of the North Central Community Corrections program.
On Thursday, Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker answered the paper's questions about what impact - if any - this relationship could have on existing or future criminal cases.
"I believe that an independent investigation by the Judicial Investigation Commission will address the question of whether actual cases were impacted by the relationship," he said.
"However, a substantial majority of community corrections violations involve the program participant being charged with a new criminal offense or testing positive for controlled substances," Parker added.
Wilfong self-reported the relationship to the JIC, although three other subsequent reports were filed in the matter, the judge said.
Carter was suspended by the Randolph County Commission Oct. 16, initially without pay. The Commission revised its decision Oct. 17, opting to pay Cater during his absence.
At issue, though, are the cases adjudicated by Wilfong that involved sentencing to the tri-county program. In addition to serving as regional director of the program, Carter often was called upon to testify before Wilfong as part of court proceedings for cases involving community corrections.
Parker, however, said because of the nature of the sentences handed down, there may not be that big of an impact.
"If the result of any drug screen is contested by the participant, it is sent to an independent laboratory for verification," he said. "Additionally, prior to any defendant being violated from the North Central Community Corrections Program, they are afforded an opportunity to contest the allegations with representation by a lawyer, which almost always results in the defendant admitting to the allegations."
Despite the legal foundation, appeals of Community Corrections sentencings are expected, which could put a drain on county and court system resources.
The North Central Community Corrections program - started in 2005 - provides offenders structure and guidance so they may make a smooth transition into the community after release from incarceration. The judicial system also has the option of using the program as a community-based alternative sentencing program.
Randolph, Tucker and Pocahontas counties all are part of the system.
The Randolph County Commission has hired outside counsel for guidance in the matter, and the North Central Community Corrections board also is considering a similar move.
The program's finance manager, Erin Golden, has been appointed the acting director during Carter's leave.
- Contact Matthew Burdette at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at IM-Burdette.