SUTTON – Braxton County Magistrate Carolyn Cruickshanks pleaded not guilty Oct. 23 to a charge that she conspired with her son to retaliate against a witness who helped send her son to jail.
Circuit Judge John Hatcher of Fayetteville tentatively set trial Jan. 7.
Cruickshanks allegedly handed documents to son Jordan Grubb at Central Regional Jail in Flatwoods, exposing inmate Philip Dailey as a snitch.
Dailey had made a statement implicating Grubb in delivery of a controlled substance, as part of a plea bargain between Dailey and the state.
Grubb distributed the information to other inmates and slipped copies under the door of Dailey's pod.
Dailey reacted the way a frightened man would. He told his mother. At her urging the guards moved Dailey as far as they could.
State Police arrested Cruickshanks March 12.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals suspended her with pay the next day, and two days after that they suspended her without pay.
She did not contest the suspension but she asked to keep her salary.
In June, the Court turned her down. Chief Justice Robin and Justices Brent Benjamin and Spike Maynard stuck to the decision to withhold pay.
"Retaliation against witnesses strikes at the core of our system of justice," Benjamin wrote. "... the consequences of her alleged actions could easily have brought violence on Dailey ..."
He wrote that he disagreed with Cruickshanks in her argument that conversations with her son were entirely personal.
"Magistrate Cruickshanks, a judicial officer, cannot so conveniently shed the obligations of her office," Benjamin wrote.
Justices Joseph Albright and Larry Starcher dissented. Albright wrote that the majority acted "before adequate evidence is adduced or is apparent."
"Nothing was before us and no consideration was given to the possibility that the magistrate could have had a meritorious defense," Albright wrote.
Justice Spike Maynard responded that, "…the facts and circumstances of this case raise a reasonable belief that Magistrate Cruickshanks likely committed the crime and violations charged."
She faces one year to five in a correctional facility and a fine up to $10,000.
Judge Hatcher will commute from Fayetteville to hear the case by special assignment because local judges disqualified themselves.
The case also requires a special prosecutor, Robert Schulenberg, on loan from Kanawha County.