Worley Removed as Magistrate

Robert Worley was dismissed as a magistrate today (June 6) by Superior Court Judge C. Ashley Gore.

Citing conduct unbecoming an officer of the court, social media posts and concerns that he had intimidated law enforcement officers, Gore filed the removal of the magistrate when the clerk’s office opened today.

“…the court has severe concerns about Magistrate Worley’s unbecoming conduct towards WPD, both publicly and privately,” Gore’s order reads in part. “Magistrate Worley’s private and public behavior towards WPD have brought into question his ability to perform his official duties impartially and diligently.”

 Worley was suspended from the magistrate’s office in May. A court hearing to determine if he would be removed was held May 30.

A complaint and six affidavits were filed with District Court Judge Scott Ussery  after Worley’s disagreements with the Whiteville Police over an incident with an alleged shoplifter at Walmart, and an automobile collision involving Worley’s wife Stephanie.

In October 2023, Worley confronted a shoplifting suspect in the Walmart parking lot in Whiteville. He chased the suspect on foot, and Worley reportedly stood in front of the suspect’s vehicle with both hands on the hood, demanding that he stop.  The suspect bumped Worley with a vehicle as Worley tried to block his path, a WPD report stated. Worley fell to the ground and the suspect fled.  He refused medical attention, but later required knee surgery that he blamed on the incident.

After consultation with the district attorney’s office, WPD Officer Maria Cruz did not file assault on a government official charges against the suspect because Worley was not on duty or wearing anything that identified him as a magistrate, the order reads. Worley also “contributed to the circumstances by engaging the suspect,” according to the report and testimony.

When the suspect was later identified and arrested, the order said that Worley questioned Cruz about her decision, and told her “We’re going to have a come to Jesus meeting.”

The second incident occurred in April, when Worley’s wife was involved in an automobile collision in Whiteville. Stephanie Worley was transported to Columbus Regional with injuries after the wreck, which happened in the Walmart parking lot. Magistrate Worley went to the scene of the crash.

WPD Officer Ethan Thompson completed a driver’s information exchange form after investigating the wreck, according to testimony, spoke with Worley, and went to the hospital to interview Mrs. Worley. Thompson did not cite any of the drivers in the wreck.

When Thompson went to the magistrate on other business several days later, he asked Worley about his wife’s recovery. Worley then reportedly asked Thompson about whether the other woman in the wreck had a suspended license. Thompson said he confirmed that she did, but no one would be cited for the wreck. Worley then said that “this was the second time he was screwed by WPD.”

Since that time, the court order said, Thompson has cited nearly every driver involved in a wreck he has investigated. Prior to the exchange with Worley, the order said Thompson did not “cite many drivers involved in wrecks.”

“This change in Officer Thompson’s decision making process when investigating wrecks is problematic to the court,” Gore’s order reads. “If Magistrate Worley’s demeaner and statements to Officer Thompson about Stephanie’s wreck caused the officer to fear disappointing the magistrate, then the officer’s discretion in performing his job could be clouded by fear of retribution or unfairness at the magistrate’s office.”

Worley later posted several angry statements on social media. While he did not directly mention WPD, the court order said the messages were aimed at and about the department. Worley then contacted WPD and set up a meeting with Major William Hinz and Chief Doug Ipock.

In one of two meetings between WPD and Worley, the former magistrate acknowledged that the posts referred to the department.

He also admitted in a conversation with Lt. Timothy Riggins that he had used CJLEADS, a private data system used by the court system, to access information about the woman who collided with Mrs. Worley. Worley demanded that the woman be charged. Worley left the meeting abruptly when ipock told him that charges were left up to the investigating officer. Before he left, court records show Worley told the WPD Staff “I see where we stand now.”

Himnz and Ipock then contacted the chief magistrate to determine how to file a complaint.

In court Worley testified that he could not recall if he used CJLEADS or one of the public portals to access the woman’s information.bv The judge’s order found that statement “disingenuous”.

The judge also noted that the “unsavory” social media posts were “at a minimum unbecoming of a professional adult, and at worst they poison the well of the Columbus County judicial system.”

The order terminates Worley’s post as magistrate effective immediately. A replacement will be named later by the courts.

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About Jefferson Weaver 2095 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].