Attorney Says Circuit Judge Pointed Gun at Her from Bench During Hearing in West Virginia
It is not unusual for tensions to rise during a court hearing. However, attorneys and other members of the court are expected to keep their cool.
That was not the case in a recent trial in New Martinsville, West Virginia when U.S. Circuit Judge David Hummel allegedly brandished a handgun during proceedings and set it down on the bench, pointing right at attorney Lauren Varnado, who represents energy company EQT.
According to West Virginia Record, Hummel was overseeing a hearing on March 12 in a suit regarding royalty payments to landowners when he allegedly pulled out the handgun and pointed it at Varnado because he was “irritated at” her. Varnado told West Virginia Record that she was worried about the gun going off and didn’t know whether it was loaded.
“The whole trial was insane,” Varnado told The Daily Beast.
Hummel allegedly pulled out the gun in response to being told that Varnado and her team had hired private security for the trial because Varnado had been threatened the previous year by someone upset about the case. Her security team was not present at the March 12 hearing.
According to Varnado’s affidavit, Hummel opened up his robe, pulled his gun out of a hip holster, and held it up before telling the court, “My guns are bigger than your security’s guns!” He then pointed the gun at two defense attorneys before setting it down on the bench and rotating it “until the barrel of the gun was pointed directly at [Varnado],” according to the affidavit.
Referring to Varnado’s security, Hummel allegedly said, “I got this man here carrying a man purse, which I make fun of him every damn day for wearing such a sissy-ass contraption. And I hear he has blood coagulant. I have blood coagulant up here too, and I’ve got lots of guns. Like, bigger ones too.”
Hummel initially told The Daily Beast the incident had never happened, changing his story multiple times. He said he was wearing a gun but that it never came out of his holster and that he had not shown the attorneys his gun but a first aid kit.
“It was casual. I did show [Varnado] a foiled packet and said this is blood coagulant. We have preparations for active shooter situations,” he told the Daily Beast.
Varnado said this was not the first time she saw Hummel with a gun in the courtroom. During a pretrial conference on March 1, Hummel “wore a black handgun in a holster on his hip with his judicial robe unzipped,” according to Varnado’s affidavit.
Hummel, now being investigated by the FBI, was found to have violated court rules in a previous case involving child abuse by accusing one child of lying during an interview and another child of being part of a “sinister plan” to falsely accuse the children’s father. Hummel dismissed the case, but the State Supreme court sent the case back to the lower court to be heard by a different judge.
Hummell has not publicly commented on the allegations against him. The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission has said it cannot confirm whether it is looking into Hummell’s actions.