Attorney Lauren Varnado, who was defending a Pittsburgh corporation, claims that Circuit Judge David W. Hummel Jr. intimidated attorneys during a hearing on March 12.
“Aren’t me and my guns and security enough?” Hummel allegedly asked the lawyer.
She then alleges that the judge took out his Colt 45 pistol and pointed it at her and her team.
“My guns are bigger than your security’s guns!” Hummel allegedly said.
“He pulls out his gun, points it in a waving motion like he was scanning, first at the defence counsel, and then places it on the bench and then slowly turns it to make sure the barrel of it is pointed at me,” Varnado told KDKA-TV in July.
“In the moment in my head, I was thinking surely he’s not going to do anything. Surely it’s not loaded, but I do know it’s not proper gun safety to hold it that way, to point it at people, to leave a gun lying around.”
However, reports have revealed that Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney, Timothy E. Haught, had told Varnado in a letter that the judge did not commit a crime.
The statement read: “What I saw on the video tape was Judge Hummel displaying his firearm for a few seconds. It did not appear to me that he pointed his firearm at you or threatened you with the same during that time.”
In a follow-up statement on August 9, the prosecutor concluded: “I have reviewed the courtroom video and the audio… and do not find anything that constitutes a violation of West Virginia’s Criminal Code. Since I have no complaint or allegation of a crime from you as a purported victim, I am closing my file.”
Rutgers University law school professor Ronald K. Chen said: “Frankly, whether what he did would have satisfied the criminal definition of ‘brandishing’ or not seems to be besides the point. To make contact with a potential witness but one who has not complained—and essentially try to wave her off does not seem to be appropriate.”
“He sort of dares the possible victim, ‘I don’t think a crime was committed here. You didn’t file a complaint. Am I right?’”
“That does really seem to be the way a prosecutor would discharge their law enforcement function.”