CHARLESTON – A former Wayne County assistant prosecutor has had his law license suspended for 75 days after he solicited sexual favors from a woman while handling her abuse and neglect case.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on June 4 issued a per curiam opinion against Charles C. Amos.
Last year, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel had filed a single count statement of charges against Charles C. Amos. In the statement, ODC, the arm of the state Supreme Court that investigates attorney misconduct, alleges Amos, 58 and a Huntington resident, engaged in “an egregious abuse of his position” when he became too personal with a woman while having a say in the custody of her child.
According to the statement, Amos, along with some friends, on June 23, 2011, visited the Pig & Whistle in Huntington. Sometime after they arrived, a woman whose abuse and neglect case Amos was handling approached their table and “had drinks together,” it says.
The woman is identified in the statement only as “Ms. C," who “discussed her abuse and neglect proceedings,” and later went to another bar. Amos then too the woman to another bar, one that featured nude female dancing. He then drover her home where she allowed him to view her children's bedrooms upon his request.
Following the encounter at the bar, Amos said he had no further personally contact with Ms. C. However, he admitted exchanging text message with her, “some of which related to the abuse and neglect proceedings.”
According to the statement, Ms. C confided in her social worker, Christy Wright, that Amos “kissed her and promised that she would regain custody of her children in exchange for sexual favors.” Ms. C. told Wayne County Prosecutor Thomas Plymale that while they were together in the Pig & Whistle, Amos “rubbed her thighs and made the statement ‘If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’”
Prior to leaving the Pig & Whistle for a bar that featured female nude dancers, Ms. C. said he “kissed her on the cheek twice.” After arriving at the topless bar, Ms. C. claimed Amos again began rubbing her thighs and made not-so-subtle hints about having sex.
According to the statement, Amos requested to have sex with Ms. C. after he took her home, but she declined.
After speaking with Ms. C., Marsteller, Wright, Eric Dotson, the interim manager of the Wayne County Department of Health and Human Resources, and Judge Darrell Pratt, Plymale, the statement says, on June 28 placed Amos on paid suspension pending further investigation. The next day, he asked Amos to tender his resignation and report the incident to ODC.
The statement alleges Amos committed five violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct including those dealing with conflict of interest and misconduct.
During an evidentiary hearing last May, Amos admitted to the allegations except that he emphatically denied touching the woman or asking for sexual favors.
In January, the panel filed its findings and recommendations with the state Supreme Court. It recommended a public reprimand of Amos, a sanction prohibiting him from engaging in abuse and neglect proceedings for one year, yet allowing him to serve as a guardian ad litem.
The court called the idea of a public reprimand "wholly inadequate." Thus, it went with the discipline plan proposed by the ODC and Amos himself of a 75-day suspension with automatic reinstatement at the end of that period.
The court also called the proposed sanction "insufficient," instead opting to keep him off abuse and neglect proceedings in any way for a full year.
Amos also is to continue counseling with a mental health provider for at least a year, and he is to pay for the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
According to records, Amos began working as an assistant prosecutor on Sept. 1, 1993, with a salary of $18,300. When he resigned on June 30, 2011, his salary was $35,088.
According to the state Bar’s Web site, Amos began practicing law on Oct. 12, 1982. Currently, he is a partner in the Huntington law firm of Barrett, Chafin, Lowry & Amos.
Amos was represented by Paul E. Biser of the Huntington law firm of Fredeking, Fredeking & Biser Law Offices.
Justice Brent Benjamin concurred and might file a concurring opinion, and Justice Menis Ketchum disqualified himself. Judge Michael Aloi was sitting by special assignment.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 13-0065