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Accused of domestic violence, town justice could lose post

Town Justice Jeffery P. Wick will be on the other side of the bench and runs the risk of losing his judgeship after being arrested on misdemeanor domestic-violence charges.

Wick, 31, who is completing his second year as town justice, was arrested by a Niagara County sheriff's deputy Friday and charged with second-degree menacing and second-degree harassment. His wife, Andrea L. Wick, 31, accused him of a long series of physically and verbally abusive incidents.

Justice Bruce M. Barnes of the neighboring Town of Newfane arraigned Wick and granted his wife an order of protection. But Wick returned to the couple's Quaker Road home Monday, asking for changes in arrangements for him to see the couple's four children, all younger than 9.

Wick's wife said that the conversation was civil but that it also was an apparent violation of Barnes' order to stay away from his wife. As a result, Wick was arrested again and charged with second-degree criminal contempt of court.

John J. Postel, chief attorney for the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, said Wick may continue to serve while the case is pending. "The presumption of innocence applies," he said.

But if Wick is convicted on any charge, the commission would begin an investigation and decide if further penalties are warranted.

A felony conviction automatically causes any elected official to lose his office. That is not the case for a misdemeanor, but Postel said, "The commission regularly removes justices who are convicted of misdemeanors."

The commission's other options include admonition or censure, which would leave the judge in office.

Wick and his wife both work at Delphi Thermal & Interior in Lockport. Wick had no legal or police experience other than some criminal-justice courses at Niagara County Community College before he defeated the incumbent, 48-year veteran Town Justice Beryl T. Coleman, in the 2003 election. Wick was the first Democrat in memory to win an election in Somerset.

Wick is due to appear with an attorney before Barnes tonight. However, District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III said that it is possible that the case will be reassigned to another judge.

Murphy also said he thinks that his office must back out of prosecuting Wick "just to avoid the appearance of impropriety." Murphy said Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark has agreed to provide a visiting prosecutor.

Wick did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday. His wife declined to comment.

Court papers provided by Town Attorney Edwin J. Shoemaker include her lengthy written statement cataloging the alleged abuse. Andrea Wick wrote of "a pattern of abuse . . . between February 2005 and Dec. 6, 2005."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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