District judge to face discipline over ‘sexting’

HARRISBURG —  Bradford County District Judge Michael G. Shaw has been charged by the Judicial Conduct Board in the Court of Judicial Discipline with violations of the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges and the state Constitution in connection with alleged “sexting” incidents.

Shaw faces charges of impropriety or the appearance of impropriety, special consideration, “ex parte” communications, failure to recuse and three counts of violating the rules or canons prescribed by the state Supreme Court.

According to a news release issued Tuesday, during Shaw’s time as presiding judge of Treatment Court for the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County, he developed a relationship with the girlfriend of a convicted drug abuser and continued to send text messages to her from February through April 2014.

Shaw admitted some of the text messages were “flirtatious” and some were sexual in nature, also known as “sexting,” according to court documents.

Over the course of about a month, Shaw exchanged text and sext messages with her at least once a day, according to the documents.

In March 2014 Shaw and the woman met at a hotel in Binghamton, New York, where they engaged in sexual relations, documents allege.

After the sexting was discovered by the victim’s boyfriend, and the information communicated to his parole officer, Judge Maureen T. Beirne removed Shaw from his Treatment Court position.

During his July 30, 2015, deposition, Shaw admitted he engaged in sexting conduct with other women, including a 35-year-old female probation officer employed by the Bradford County Probation Department during his term of service as district judge in Bradford County.

In 2012 or 2013, Shaw began to use his personal cellphone to send text messages to her, according to the document.

The victim said she was “shocked” by the text messages from Shaw, but that she “went along with them” and didn’t tell him to stop sending them, the documents related. The two exchanged text messages for about a year.

At his deposition, Shaw admitted in the course of sending text messages to her, he “may have” suggested they engage in a sexual encounter.

Shaw also is accused of ignoring the rules of Treatment Court by allowing participants to contact him directly rather than the probation department in matters of urgency in December 2014, and in February 2015, he changed the summary charge of a participant to a lesser charge at the request of the person’s employer because the ticket was “a financial hardship” for her.

In March 2015, Shaw dropped a truancy charge against a woman whose daughter was absent from school too many times after meeting with the girl at school during a study hall, according to the document.

He also withdrew a charge of retail theft that had been filed against the sister of a male high school student who had communicated with Shaw about a traffic citation he had received in another county, according to the document.

When Athens police refiled the charge against the woman along with a receiving stolen property charge, the student sent a text message to Shaw asking him to “take into consideration” that his sister had “changed her life for the better, and has a son that she takes extremely good care of.”

On April 21, 2015, Shaw waived the two misdemeanor charges against the student’s sister.

Shaw will be disciplined in the Court of Judicial Discipline. According to Chief Counsel for the Judicial Board Robert Graci, a hearing date has not yet been set by the court.

“The first step would be for the court to appoint a conference judge to preside over the hearing,” he said.

Graci said if charges against Shaw are proven during the disciplinary hearing, sanctions imposed against him could include removal from the district court bench, suspension for a period of time, censure and a monetary fine.