PARKERSBURG - Two Wood County magistrates were granted recusals after they asked to be removed from a case where a family court judge is the alleged victim.
Magistrates Joyce Purkey and Brenda Marshall asked to be recused from the preliminary hearing for Jonathan Ray Cunningham, 36, 2631 14th Ave., Parkersburg, who is alleged to have made threatening remarks on Facebook toward Wood County Family Court Judge Brian Dempster.
According to court records, the magistrates asked to be removed because of alleged remarks by Dempster regarding magistrates.
Magistrates Joyce Purkey and Brenda Marshall asked to be recused from the preliminary hearing for Jonathan Ray Cunningham, shown above, who is alleged to have made threatening remarks on Facebook toward Wood County Family Court Judge Brian Dempster.
Marshall said her request for recusal was because Dempster allegedly made comments about how magistrates do their jobs.
"I feel I should not preside over this preliminary hearing due to the fact that the alleged victim is Judge Brian Dempster," Marshall said in her request to be recused from Cunningham's preliminary hearing.
"Judge Dempster is the family court judge I send protective orders to be heard. It has come to my attention that he does not feel that the magistrates know what they are doing in cases assigned to them," she stated.
"Depending on the outcome there could be repercussions and I feel that an outside judge or magistrate would be better to have the preliminary hearing," Marshall said.
When contacted Wednesday, Marshall said she never heard any statements directly from Dempster but from others.
"People have come back and said things were said," she said. "I didn't feel I wanted to get in the middle of it with him being a victim and to keep everything running smoothly. I've heard comments and I don't want anyone to say I'm not fair. I thought it would be far better to have a magistrate or judge who does not deal with people in Wood County."
Magistrate Joyce Purkey made her request to be recused from the case on Sept. 27, a day after the request from Marshall.
Purkey said her reason to ask for recusal was because of remarks Dempster is alleged to have made about magistrates and about her in particular.
"It has been brought to my attention that Judge Dempster has made several inappropriate and demeaning comments during court regarding magistrates and he has mentioned me specifically on more than one occasion."
When asked Wednesday afternoon what the comments were, Purkey declined to answer.
Dempster was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening.
Wood County Circuit Court Judge J.D. Beane, who is the chief judge of the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court, said he granted the requests, although they were for an unusual reason.
"I don't think it's unusual for a magistrate to request a recusal but the reasons for the recusal were," he said Wednesday.
Beane said he knew nothing about the comments.
"I don't know anything about the remarks other than he is said to have made disparaging remarks about the magistrates in general," Beane said.
Beane said he did not have any concerns magistrates are not doing their jobs.
"I meet with them monthly, the first Wednesday of the month, and they are doing a great job," he said. "Most of them have been magistrate assistants and at one time Joyce Purkey was the magistrate court clerk. I used to practice law before them and they were always very knowledgeable."
Beane said now that the case has been bound over to circuit court from the magistrate court, the case could go before him.
"Our cases are assigned on a rotating basis from the circuit court clerk," he said. "I do not think there would be any reason for me to recuse myself because I do not know anything about the case. I just had the motions and it seemed appropriate to recuse the magistrates."
Cunningham had a preliminary hearing Sept. 30 before Wood County Magistrate Robin Waters.
According to court records, he waived a preliminary hearing on a charge of intimidation of a public official. His case has been moved to circuit court to await consideration by a grand jury. His bond was set at $5,000 cash, property or surety. He posted the bond, records show.
Court records indicate Cunningham allegedly made profanity-filled comments in July, stating he was going a step further and he was going to be the judge and that he would start with Parkersburg's finest.
"I'll get you (expletive)!" he stated. "Ding Dong!! That's me at the door!! BLAMM!"
In a later post he allegedly stated, "I'm gonna take em all down!"
Cunningham also allegedly threatened to shoot an individual, court records state.
"That red laser needs to be placed between his ugly eyes and pull the trigger not once but 4 times," he wrote, records state.