Court News

Court News

WV Consumers Can File Claims for LCD Screens as Part of Price-Fixing Settlement

The Gilmer Free Press

WV Attorney General Darrell McGraw says West Virginia consumers can now file refund claims in a price-fixing settlement against companies that made liquid crystal display screens used in televisions and computer monitors.

Consumers have until December 06, 2012 to file claims for LCD screens bought between 1999 and 2006.

Claims can be made online at or forms can be requested by calling 304.225.1886.

McGraw said Monday says consumers will likely receive at least $25, although the actual payment will be calculated based on the number of claims and type of products purchased.

The $1.1 billion settlement involved 10 manufacturers of LCD panels. Partial refunds are being offered to consumers in 24 states.

Jury Duty Scam: Some State Residents Receiving Calls Seeking Credit Card Information

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury says he’s learned of a scam involving jury duty.

Canterbury says some state residents are receiving recorded phone calls saying they missed jury duty and they can pay their fines by credit card.

Canterbury says none of the county court systems in West Virginia use phone calls to alert residents when they miss jury duty.

“We don’t do that—it’s more personal,“ Canterbury said. “The fact is that if one misses jury duty likely they will have a deputy visit them with a summons for them to appear to show cause.“

Canterbury says the phone calls were first reported in Webster County.

He says the state Attorney General’s Office has been notified.

He says the best thing to do if you get that call is to hang up.

U.S. Court: Fish and Wildlife OK to Ignore Own Rules in De-listing WV Northern Flying Squirrel

The Gilmer Free Press

A federal appeals court has struck down a lower court ruling that had sided with environmental groups hoping to restore protected status to the West Virginia northern flying squirrel.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday ruled in favor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Five environmental groups had sued in 2009 after the federal agency took the squirrel off the endangered species list.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said the agency wrongly ignored its own rules and effectively changed the recovery plan for the species without the required public-input process.

The appeals court disagreed in a 2-1 vote, saying that “a plan is a statement of intention, not a contract.“

Gilmer County Circuit Court Report – 08.09.12

The Gilmer Free Press

At 9:00 AM on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 Judge Facemire heard a fugitive from justice hearing.

Jabbar Womble was wanted in Pennsylvania and waived extradition back to PA.

Authorities there have until 4:00 PM Thursday, August 16, 2012 to pick him up or Central Regional Jail will release him.

He was represented by Steve Nanners from Buckhannon.

Nanners also represented Jimmie Stewart who appeared before the Court for pretrial motions.

Further motions in his case will be heard on Monday, August 20, 2012 at 1:30 PM in Braxton County.

His trial is still set for Tuesday, August 28, 2012 and Judge Facemire took the motion to continue under advisement.

Also on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 Chief Judge Jack Alsop appeared at 11:00 AM for a civil pretrial in the case of Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital vs. Crystal Marks Miller.

After hearing arguments from plaintiff and defendant, Judge Alsop entered judgment in the case and cancelled the bench trial set for Tuesday, August 14, 2012.

Crystal represented herself pro se and Christopher McCarthy represented Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital.

JudgeAlsop returned to Gilmer County at 9:00 AM Thursday, August 09, 2012 for a juvenile hearing, 10:15 AM for a probation revocation hearing in State of West Virginia vs. Jerry Blackwell.

Blackwell was represented by David Karickhoff of Sutton.

Another juvenile matter was set for 11:00 AM.

On Monday, August 13, 2012 will be Judge Alsop’s regular monthly motion day and he has a full half day of hearings scheduled.

Finally Putnam Judge Facing Charges

The Gilmer Free Press

Formal charges have been brought against a Putnam County Judge.

Putnam County Family Court Judge William Watkins III is facing two counts for allegedly violating the Judicial Code of Conduct and trial court rules. The State Supreme Court of Appeals served Watkins with the charges Friday.

The charges come several weeks after Watkins was caught on tape verbally attacking people in his courtroom. According to court records, nine complaints were filed against Watkins regarding his courtroom display. No charges were filed from the incident until now.

On the first count, the high court says Judge Watkins violated several canons of the Judicial Code of Conduct.

In one case, investigators say Watkins failed to make a ruling on a divorce case even after three prior Circuit Court Orders and one Supreme Court Order had been issued. He finally did after being threatened of being held in contempt.

On the second count, the high court claims Watkins failed to regularly update the Domestic Violence Protective Order Registry.

According to West Virginia Code, a family court judge is required to immediately enter all domestic violence related orders on the West Virginia domestic violence database.

According to investigators, Watkins failed to enter the orders in at least two cases to the database. In fact, it was days, weeks or months before his office finally entered the final protective orders to the database.

Prior complaints have come from Watkins saying his office doesn’t have time to enter the orders into the database. The court offered additional training to try to help, but according to the investigation, Watkins and his staff still didn’t follow procedure.

The charges that were filed were originally issued July 31, 2012, but the high court could not serve them until now because Watkins was on vacation.

A fax indicated that he was on vacation from July 20, 2012 until August 06, 2012.

G-otcha™: Rosedale Resident Sentenced on Marijuana Charge

The Gilmer Free Press

A 44 year old Rosedale, West Virginia, was sentenced on August 08, 2012, in United States District Court in Clarksburg by Judge Irene M. Keeley.

LARRY DONALD SANDY was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day imprisonment to be followed by four years of supervised release.

SANDY entered a plea of guilty on January 20, 2012, to one count of “Manufacturing More than 50 Kilograms of Marijuana on October 11, 2010, in Rosedale.

SANDY, who is free on bond, will self-report to the designated Federal institution on September 10, 2012.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Shawn A. Morgan and investigated by the West Virginia State Police-Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

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G-LtE™: Challenges in Public Education

The Gilmer Free Press

As the new President of the board of Education in a State intervened county school system, I wish to share some thoughts on the state of our public schools and on some of the challenges we face now and in the years ahead.

The dynamics of any school system are extremely complex with many constituencies involved and many policy and legal constraints.  You have probably noted in recent news releases that West Virginia has one of the most regulated and constrained public school systems in the country. With all the complexities in place plus the need to reach the students with the best educational experience we can provide, under the best circumstances we remain challenged to fulfill the needs of our public schools.

Hopefully, most of Gilmer County’s major issues will be identified and resolved in the near future.  In the State’s Audit Report which triggered state intervention there were several citations which the state-appointed Superintendent is in the process of addressing.  Additionally, the State Board of Education is looking to approve an Exit Management Plan for all intervened counties which will help clarify tasks which need to be completed for both the state and the counties involved.  Perhaps Gilmer County will have part of its governance restored in the near future and we can get on with the business of administering our schools.

As a new President, I am committed to the need to move forward to provide a quality educational experience for the -students in the county.  To do this, a vision for the future of our schools needs to be formulated, agreed upon, and understood by school officials and the general public.  Better communication is an essential element in this important process. Superintendent Blankenship and I agree that we should hold town hall Board meetings in different locations in the county to let the public hear from the Board and the Board hear from the public. Quite often the information that circulates is the result of rumor, speculation and erroneous assumptions.  It is not always possible to keep everyone accurately informed, but this Board will strive to have transparency with the public on school matters.

Our most immediate challenges involve getting governance of our schools back to the County Board of Education.  We will work with the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education to accomplish this as expeditiously as possible.  Also, we have a time line until November 01, 2012 to select the most suitable site for a new elementary school which will house approximately 400 students.  While not a certainty, we will work with the School Building Authority to see if a health clinic could be a part of this project. The other facilities related issue is the inter-county school to be built at a Linn site.  It is obvious that new governance procedures need to be placed in West Virginia code to make a fair and equal partnership of inter-county and multi-county schools.  Before the new school opens at Linn, officials of Lewis and Gilmer County will need to agree on a new set of provisions.

As I am sure you are aware, public school systems across the country are facing financial challenges.  In California systems are closing schools, consolidating schools and cutting up to twenty days off the school year.  While the situation is not as grave in West Virginia, we are not exempt from the need to develop strategies to live within our budgets.  Because of the loss of population in several rural counties in West Virginia there are school closures, school consolidations and reductions in staff under consideration.  For example, the Harrison County Board while located in a fairly strong and healthy appearing economy is dealing with some of these difficult decisions.

Rural counties in our state have some of the most difficult challenges in dealing with lost student population.  Here in Gilmer County we have lost significant student population over the last ten or so years. The geography of the county, however, remains the same.  With the diminished numbers and shrinking funds, hard decisions are brought to those who have to manage this kind of situation.  The Legislature has given counties like Gilmer a floor in student funding to allow time for the counties to develop management strategies to operate within the average funding levels for public schools throughout the state. While Gilmer County has approximately 931 students, we receive funding for 1400.  With the financial challenges the state is facing they cannot continue this type of subsidy and therefore have notified counties that there will be a phase-out of these extra dollars over the next three or four years.

What does this mean for Gilmer County? It means that a plan has to be implemented to manage our schools with the funding generated by actual student enrollment in the near future. Not all schools can remain and streamlining must occur all around.

It will be imperative that the Board of Education, the Superintendent and the State Board of Education be totally transparent and forthright with parents, taxpayers and the general public as we all work through this necessary transition.

As counties face financial problems, there is also the need to be mindful of the need to improve qualifications of teaching and administrative personnel and raise our academic expectations for students as well.

Like growing a garden or creating a new structure the transition will not happen overnight.  Gilmer County will get our facilities issues in order, our County back from the State and create a plan for the future and ultimately emerge with an improved educational program for our students.  I encourage your support and participation as we move forward.

William K. Simmons
The Gilmer Free Press

G-otcha™: Sutton Man Sentenced for Federal Supervised Release and Probation Violations

The Gilmer Free Press

JEREMY DEAL, age 33, of Sutton, West Virginia, was sentenced on July 03, 2012, to 6 months imprisonment for possession and use of a controlled substance; failure to follow instructions of probation officer; and, associating with individuals engaged in criminal activity.

DEAL was originally sentenced on August 18, 2010, to 14 months imprisonment and two years of supervised release for providing a False Declaration Before a Grand Jury.

DEAL was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal pending designation to a Federal institution.

G-otcha™: Three FCI-Gilmer Federal Inmates Enter Pleas and are Sentenced in Federal Court


Three FCI Gilmer inmates entered pleas of guilty and were sentenced on July 31, 2012, in United States District Court in Clarksburg before Judge Irene M. Keeley.

•  CESAR LEDESMA-CARRILLO, age 34, entered a plea of guilty to Assault of an Inmate with Dangerous Weapons with Intent to do Bodily Harm on February 08, 2011, when LEDESMA-CARRILLO beat his cellmate with combination locks inflicting several lacerations to the victim’s head.

LEDESMA-CARRILLO was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment to be served consecutively with is current 75-month sentence.

•  OREANDA HALL, age 38, entered a plea of guilty to Possession of Marijuana on December 17, 2011, at FCI Gilmer.

HUNT was sentenced to 4 months imprisonment to be served consecutively with his current 360-month sentence.

•  ADAM ORTIZ, age 35, entered a plea of guilty to Possession of Marijuana on November 12, 2011, at FCI Gilmer.

ORTIZ was sentenced to 4 months imprisonment to be served consecutively with his current 96-month sentence.

These cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brandon S. Flower and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Investigative Services at FCI Gilmer.

WV Election Officials Defend PAC Contribution Cap

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia’s elections chief is urging a federal judge against striking down one of the state’s campaign contribution limits.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is defending the $1,000 cap on contributions to independent-expenditure political action committees.

Stay the Course West Virginia is such a PAC. It has sued to overturn that cap as unconstitutional.
Until that lawsuit is resolved, Stay the Course wants U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston to block the cap.

Johnston has set an August 01, 2012 hearing for this preliminary injunction request.

But Tennant’s response filing says the cap serves the public interest by limiting the perceived influence of campaign cash.

Tennant also cites the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that required the recusal of state Justice Brent Benjamin because of an independent group’s campaign spending.

WV Justice Benjamin Explains Dissent on Redistricting

The Gilmer Free Press

A West Virginia Supreme Court justice is explaining why he dissented when the court upheld legislative redistricting.

A 4-1 ruling in in November rejected multiple challenges to the redrawing of state Senate and House of Delegates districts.

The majority later explained that ruling in a February opinion.

Justice Brent Benjamin issued his dissent Friday.

It says he did not disagree with the majority regarding the new Senate districts.

But his dissent slams the new House districts as constitutionally unacceptable.

The new map increases the number of single-member districts.

But it also includes districts with between two and five members.

Benjamin called that result a strange mix that dilutes the voting power of citizens.

The 2010 Census prompted the redistricting.

Still pending is a federal lawsuit challenging the redrawn congressional districts.

Ripley Woman Denies Abuse Charges against Husband

The Gilmer Free Press

Shown numerous photos of her wounds in court, a West Virginia woman whose husband is accused of torturing and abusing her for years denied the allegations Friday, offering different explanations for each injury.

Stephanie Lizon’s testimony conflicted with what she previously told a domestic violence worker, but a magistrate refused a defense motion to dismiss a malicious wounding charge against her husband, Peter Lizon. The judge found probable cause to send the case to circuit court.

When Stephanie Lizon looked at photos of wounds on her back and breast taken by a domestic violence shelter manager, she testified they came from the same frying pan.

“It was an accident,“ Stephanie Lizon said. “My husband and I were arguing over breakfast. We often get very passionate in our arguments. I often am without a shirt in my own home because I think it’s my right. We collided with each other.“

Similar answers came with other injuries — her husband either wasn’t involved or didn’t intentionally inflict them.

A bruise on her side? “That was when my goat gored me,“ she said.

A knee bruise? “I skinned my knee. I tripped.“

A photo of her swollen left foot?

“It was caused by an accident that we had with the tractor and the front-end loader attachment,“ Stephanie Lizon said. “My husband was trying to lower the attachment and he didn’t realize that I was so close. He dropped the loader on my feet.“

A domestic violence shelter manager said Stephanie Lizon told her the back burns occurred because the wife didn’t prepare a meal correctly and got hit intentionally with a hot pan. The manager also said after Peter Lizon allegedly dropped the hay bailer on her feet, and over time, he stepped on her feet to reinjure them.

Prosecutor Katie Casto said the bruises were obvious.

“It is plain to a reasonable person that this was intentional,“ Casto said. “It’s not an accident.“

Peter Lizon, who is being held in jail on bond, sat next to his attorneys at the preliminary hearing in Jackson County Magistrate Court.

“What we have established is that this is a mess,“ said his attorney, Shawn Bayliss.

Stephanie Lizon testified she fled June 18 after an argument with her husband at a heavy equipment rental store about 50 miles north of their home in Leroy near the Ohio border. She said she did not want to argue in front of the couple’s 13-month-old child and went to the domestic violence shelter for two days.

She told another woman at the shelter of the abuse, a criminal complaint said.

An employee of the Bosley Rental & Supply store previously told The Associated Press Stephanie Lizon entered told the staff she was trying to hide from her husband when she entered a different part of the store.

The employee declined to give her name, citing concern for her safety and that of her co-workers at the rental shop.

Stephanie Lizon said then she didn’t want to involve police but accepted the number for the shelter and called it, the store employee said. She also called family to ask for money, and the employees gave her cash and called her a cab.

She was limping and had appeared to have some sort of injury, the store employee said.

The shelter manager testified Stephanie Lizon showed up at the shelter under an assumed name and was afraid of her husband. A bus ticket was arranged for the wife to travel to her parents’ home in Alexandria, Va., but she never got on the bus because her young son was with her husband and she wanted to go get him.

Investigators said they had 45 photographs showing burns on the wife’s back and breasts from irons and frying pans, and scars on her wrists and ankles. When she was shown a picture of her foot injury, she said farming was dangerous.

She sought medical treatment on June 20, but when asked why she didn’t previously, “I didn’t think it warranted it,“ she testified.

The couple has raised goats and chickens on their property since 2005.

West Virginia University law professor Marjorie McDiarmid, who specializes in domestic violence and family law, said successful prosecution of such cases depends on evidence that supports the allegations.

Despite her denial of abuse, it’s common for prosecutors to have to build a case based on third-party evidence, McDiarmid said.

“It is a very fraught period in anyone’s life when they are making these kind of allegations,“ she said. “If in fact she is the victim of violence, there’s a lot of danger and a lot of fear and a lot of mixed emotions that go into being in that kind of situation.“

WV Supreme Court OKs 3-Year Pilot Program To Help Lawyers With Addiction, Other Conditions

The Gilmer Free Press

The West Virginia Supreme Court has approved a three-year pilot program to help attorneys who have addictions, or physical or mental health conditions, that impact their ability to practice law.

Officials say the purposes of the program are to protect the public and assist attorneys who need help to begin and continue recovery.

The program also will be used to educate the judges, attorneys, and the public about the causes of impairment, and develop prevention programs to help attorneys.

The West Virginia State Bar is required to file a report with the court after the first two years of the program so that it can be evaluated.

It will be funded through the West Virginia State Bar. The total costs of the program may not exceed $60,000 per year.

Roane County Man Files FOIA Suit to Get Answers to Daughter’s Death, Disappearance

The Gilmer Free Press

The WV Record Reports:

A Roane County man whose teenage daughter went missing for seven years before her body was finally discovered near the Wirt/Roane county line is seeking answers as to why her disappearance, and death remain unsolved.

Jesse Starcher on June 27 filed suit against the West Virginia State Police, the Roane County 911 Center and the city of Spencer in Kanawha Circuit Court.

In his complaint, Starcher, 49, of Spencer, seeks an order compelling them to release under the state Freedom of Information Act documents in their possession relating to his daughter, Christian Dawn Starcher Seabolt who, then 18-years-old, went missing nearly a decade ago, and whose remains were later discovered in 2009.

In his 26-page complaint, Starcher details how he attempted to get answers from the State Police’s Roane County detachment, the city of Spencer and the 911 Center about Christian’s disappearance on Aug. 31, 2002.

Records show requests he made starting in 2004 were denied on the grounds that information he was requesting were part of an on-going investigation.

Shortly after Christian’s skeletal remains were discovered on Groundhog Ridge near Creston on Dec. 16, 2009, Starcher again made requests for information, including an emergency call Christian made to the 911 Center the day before she went missing.

All his requests, which were made as late as August were denied either on the grounds of, again, a pending investigation or his failure to state with specificity the information he was requesting.

In his suit, Starcher openly accuses Hueston M. Eads, a Spencer police officer, of either having knowledge of or being complicit in Christian’s disappearance.

At his suggestion, Starcher says Christian spoke with Eads about information she had relating to the murder of Ronnie Stag. 

According to Starcher, Christian “implicated several Clay County law enforcement officers in drug-related activity.“

Also, Starcher maintains that sometime after Christian went missing, Judd Reed, who accompanied her on several occasions to speak with Eads, was murdered.
Though he was “dismissive of Christian’s story,“ Starcher says Eads was “successful in involving himself into both the handling of Christian Starcher’s disappearance and the investigation of the murder of Judd Reed, in spite of the fact that the murder unquestionably occurred outside his jurisdiction, namely, outside Spencer and in rural Roane County.“

In his suit, Starcher says that the excuse offered by the State Police, the 911 Center and the city of Spencer in denying his FOIA requests on the grounds “that a genuine investigation of the matter was ongoing” is “a sham.“

Instead, he says “the report of investigation and the contents of the tape are being withheld from him primarily to protect law-enforcement personnel who may have had some level of responsibility in [Christian’s] disappearance.“

Along with one compelling release of the information he’s requested, Starcher seeks another ordering the State Registrar of Vital Statistics to issue a death certificate for Christian so he can qualify as administrator of her estate in order to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Also, he seeks recovery of court costs, and attorneys fees. 

Starcher is represented by Charleston attorney David R. Karr Jr.

The case is assigned to Judge Paul Zakaib.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 12-C-1204

~~  Lawrence Smith - WV Record ~~

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