- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

WINFIELD, W.Va. (AP) - A Putnam County magistrate who resigned after challenging a man to a fight during a court proceeding has been admonished by state justice investigators.

The admonishment from the Judicial Investigation Commission stems from Scot Lawrence’s handling of an August court proceeding in which he was recorded taunting a resident and challenging him to a fight, news media outlets reported.

Lawrence, a former State Police trooper, can be heard in the recording telling Troy Sexton that the motions he had filed contained “fighting words.” Lawrence said Sexton had called him a “piggy” in a previous motion and had said “oink, oink” when passing a police trooper before proceedings began.

“Where I come from . to me those are fighting words,” Lawrence said. “Do you want to fight me? Is that what you want?” the magistrate can be heard saying.

Lawrence found Sexton guilty of operating a motor vehicle with an illegal window tint and not wearing a seatbelt. Lawrence sentenced Sexton to pay a $100 fine for each charge and didn’t allow Sexton to speak before handing down the sentence, as the state Rules of Criminal Procedure require.



The way Lawrence handled the Sexton case “is a travesty of justice and a blueprint for how not to try a case in magistrate court,” wrote Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson, who heads the investigation commission. “It is evident that from the beginning (Lawrence) had a very strong bias against Mr. Sexton. Therefore, he never should have heard the case.”

The admonishment, made public on Dec. 18, notes that Lawrence will not face disciplinary action since he agreed to resign as magistrate and never again seek judicial office in West Virginia.

Lawrence left a letter of resignation on his desk Dec. 6.

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This story has been corrected to show that the recording of the hearing was an audio recording, not video.

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