CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Mercer County magistrate is retiring amid an investigation into alleged inappropriate Facebook messages he sent to a woman who had appeared before him.
Magistrate Richard "Rick" Fowler had posted a letter on his door announcing his retirement this week, but made it official in a letter received Friday by Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury.
Fowler said he would leave his seat at the end of this month to pursue "other scheduled tasks," according to the letter.
Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in September that Fowler was under investigation because of Facebook messages he allegedly sent to a Princeton woman.
The newspaper had published several screenshots of Facebook messages purportedly between Fowler and the unidentified woman. Fowler told the newspaper that he did not have a sexual relationship with the woman and had never interacted with outside of messages on Facebook.
The woman had appeared before Fowler for arraignment three times since 2012, the newspaper reported.
In a message posted on Facebook on Friday, Fowler said he wanted to clarify that he is retiring and not resigning.
"I will miss all of the wonderful people I have met ... but it's time to move closer to my parents," according to the post. "I am excited to be able to take them to dinner and just be with them and my sisters and family. Thank you for your support for the past 10 years. Be safe and please accept my token of appreciation to everyone."
Canterbury has not filed a complaint against Fowler with the state Judicial Investigation Commission. The commission does not publicize investigations into alleged judicial misconduct unless decisions are reached. Ash said he would submit the results of his investigation to the commission, the Bluefield paper reported.
Fowler's retirement wouldn't affect any investigations into his alleged misconduct, Canterbury said.
In January 2012, the Judicial Investigation Commission admonished Fowler for lying to investigators about dating the wife of a defendant who had appeared before him for arraignment on wanton endangerment, stalking and domestic assault charges. Fowler also took a job at the Princeton Speedway racetrack without approval from the Supreme Court, according to the admonishment.
Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.