CHARLESTON -- In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court has suspended a Wayne County magistrate for violating judicial ethics.
Tommy Toler was censured and suspended, retroactive to July, for four years. That means he won't return to serve the rest of his term to which he was re-elected last fall.
Toler was acquitted of sexual abuse and bribery charge in February. He had been accused of demanding sexual favors from women whose cases were before him. Despite the charges that were against him at the time, Toler was re-elected last November to a four-year term.
The Supreme Court did grant Toler nearly a year of back pay, but they ordered him to pay $20,000 in fines and an additional undetermined amount for the cost of the proceedings.
The state Judicial Hearing Board had recommended the sanctions against Toler, who was accused of inappropriate sexual contact with four women while performing his official duties as magistrate at the Wayne County Courthouse.
In July, the four women testified before the state Judicial Hearing Board.
The first woman, a Wayne County corrections officer, said that while she and Toler were alone in the magistrate's office, Toler put his hand and his finger on her breasts before asking if he could "go downtown on her." The woman took that as a solicitation for oral sex.
A second woman testified that Toler told her, while she and her husband were going through divorce proceedings, that he would help her get a lawyer and make sure her husband paid dearly. Then, the witness said, Toler grabbed her blouse and pulled it along with her bra, exposing her breasts. She said Toler also grabbed her between her legs and told her he wanted to have sex with her.
All of this occurred, the woman testified, minutes after Toler had awarded the couple's home to the husband and gave the woman four hours to remove her belongings.
A third woman testified that while she was discussing a case with Toler, he grabbed her breasts with both hands before she told him to stop. The woman said Toler then laughed before he tried that again. She then left his office.
A fourth woman said she went to Toler to fill out a domestic violence petition after a fight with her boyfriend. She said Toler asked her if she liked sex and if she was any good at performing oral sex. When the woman left the office, Toler followed her onto the elevator and kissed her on the mouth. He then grabbed her hands and told her he wanted to show her something. Then, the woman said, Toler forced her hands between his legs, held her hands to his crotch and asked if she liked his penis. She then pulled away and left the building.
On July 7, 2004, a Wayne County grand jury indicted Toler on eight felony counts of sexual abuse, a count of demanding a bribe and a misdemeanor count of indecent exposure. That is when his suspension began.
After his acquittal in February, Toler filed a motion with the Supreme Court seeking to be reinstated as a magistrate with back pay.
Toler has denied the allegations.
Toler's suspension extends beyond Dec. 31, 2008, which is when his current term ends. In the ruling written by Justice Spike Maynard, the court declined to address whether his suspension would continue should he be re-elected in 2008.
Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 31797