Justice beginning to prevail in Mingo

Last updated: October 14. 2013 9:15AM - 1338 Views
Ron Gregory ronjgregory@gmail.com

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Well, I was going to go over the hot-off-the-press Capitol Master Plan, but became so bored after the first sentence I thought I’d write about things readers actually care about.

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Although that Master Plan IS important. After all, it will only get changed at the whims of new governors, legislators and appointed officials.

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Speaking of whims, I wonder how those indignant readers who were convinced I was wrong about crime in Mingo County summarize it now? I seem to recall that I was slandering some good, honest public officials with my earlier comments. Now, most of those honest folks have pleaded guilty to Federal crimes.

It didn’t take a genius or a political guru to figure out that ex-Prosecutor Michael Sparks had problems aplenty. His opening salvo of statements, in which he claimed he was “intimidated” into not doing his job was just the beginning of his woes. It actually was all downhill from there.

Citizens can be assured of one thing that reporters have known for decades. If a Federal indictment outlines crimes committed by someone other than the person being indicted, it is a pretty sure thing that person did what the Feds say. Not in every case, however, do the authorities end up indicting everyone they know has committed a crime. Sometimes cooperation wins leniency and on other occasions, the crime is apparently not considered serious enough to merit prosecution. Jails would be even more crowded if everyone who ever committed a crime was incarcerated. Yes, that includes me.

I’ve crossed the yellow line inadvertently on many occasions.

There are obviously other standards the Feds apply to prosecution and I am clearly not knowledgeable of every thought that goes into it. If a public official at the state or Federal level is involved, it is believed that the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. has to at least okay prosecution. That doesn’t mean the job is done in D.C. It means the upper echelon reviews the case with a supposed eye toward making sure it is not solely a political prosecution. In addition, the Public Integrity Unit is said to seldom approve prosecutions of politicians when an election is going on for fear of affecting the outcome.

Whatever the overall case, justice (and Justice) is beginning to prevail in Mingo. Those who said some folks were untouchable have undoubtedly figured out they were wrong, at least to some degree. There are still “big fish” to fry, however, based on just the evidence we have all seen.

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On the subject of Capitol Master Plans (see it is indeed an interesting topic), does anyone remember the outcry when then-Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. announced plans to “close the campus” behind the capitol building?

Folks who were used to “parking in the circle for a minute” to do Statehouse business were sure the idea would be a disaster. All these years later, I think most agree it was another brilliant Moore idea.

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The Justice Department also historically makes a mistake or two, just as everyone does. The prosecution of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens during the George W. Bush administration is a case in point. Or a lack of a case in point, perhaps.

After winning a conviction of Stevens and ending his illustrious political career, the Obama Justice Department was forced to admit the evidence against Stevens had been tainted. The guilty verdict was reversed but the man named Alaskan of the Twentieth Century had been defeated for re-election and a terrible injustice was done. The crime in this case was that Stevens was pursued. It was just plain wrong and heads should have rolled. They did not.

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Another suspicious case involves former Republican Governor Arch A Moore, Jr. It is safe to say Moore’s million-dollar lawyer, a fellow named Hundley from Washington, D.C. as I recall, gave him bad advice. The attorney told Moore that if he entered a guilty plea he would get to see all the evidence the Feds had against him. Of particular interest to the Governor was an alleged tape recording of him coaching Gubernatorial Assistant John Leaberry to lie to Federal agents and the grand jury.

Moore insisted from day one that there could be no such tape, since he never instructed Leaberry on what to tell the agents. Hundley told him the only way they could hear the tape prior to trial was for Moore to enter a guilty plea that he could subsequently withdraw. Moore accepted the advice of the high-powered lawyer.

Once Moore entered the guilty plea, though, there was no turning back. The judge would not allow him to change the plea, under any circumstances. And, to take the cake, Moore did not get to hear the tape. Never saw it; never listened to it. He, of course, subsequently spent time in a Federal facility.

Hundley allegedly claimed he had heard the tape and Moore did, in fact, urge Leaberry to lie. But no reporter, no witness, no juror, nor anybody in the Moore family ever heard the tape.

So, did the tape exist? We have the word of the Justice Department and a lawyer who gave Moore pitiful legal advice that it did. One might look for it in the state archives but it isn’t there. Or perhaps now, all these years later, the Justice Department could just release it and let the public form its own conclusion. I doubt if that would be illegal, although I am NOT an attorney.

After all, we got an opportunity to hear many of the Nixon Watergate tapes. So what’s wrong with hearing Moore and Leaberry behind the incinerator?

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The Moore prosecutions created lasting enemies within the state Republican party and all of those wounds have not healed. It is safe to say Charleston attorney Michael Caray will never be voted Republican of the Year by Moore Republicans for his role in the case. Caray was and is portrayed as a villain, to be honest.

Likewise, there are lingering wounds for Charlotte Lane, who ironically is hoping to fill Moore’s daughter’s Congressional seat. Shelley Moore Capito, the incumbent, is stepping out of the House to run for the United States Senate next year. Lane is one of several Republicans vying for the House nomination in the Second District.

It is doubtful that anyone in the Moore camp has forgotten Lane’s role and it is fairly safe to say there are few good feelings from that direction sent toward Lane.

Lane, who later secured a Federal appointment after much wrangling and opposition from Moore people, surely cannot think she has the well wishes of Capito or other Moore Republicans in this race.

I also firmly believe that Moore Republicans still constitute the majority of the active GOP. While the 90-year-old Governor lives out his retirement in Glen Dale, he remains adored by a large segment of the population, especially among Republicans.

I certainly consider myself a Moore Republican and I do not plan to vote for anyone who persecuted the Old Lion of the GOP. I suspect there are many others who agree with me.

That’s just one reason I have written Lane out as a viable choice in 2014.

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No pressure was applied by Logan County Circuit Judge Eric “Bo” O’Briant when his daughter, Erica, was named to a new communications position with the board of education.

An O’Briant family member called to tell me that the other two applicants mentioned for the job last week both failed to show up for their interviews. “How were they going to hire people who didn’t even come to their interviews?” asked Mark Hatcher, O’Briant’s step-son.

Hatcher also said the former radio announcer mentioned last week did not have a masters degree in communication, as alleged.

“Bo would never use his position to push somebody for a job,” said Hatcher, who is also head basketball coach at Logan High School.

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It will still be an interesting few months as Federal agents and prosecutors further refine their Mingo County cases. The sentences of former County Commissioner David Baisden and Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury will signal either that the case is moving speedily forward or slowly grinding to a halt, in all probability.

That is how these cases usually continue after some indictments come. If those indicted can offer more testimony that implicates others, the case flies on. If not, it slowly winds to a conclusion.

My best guess is that there are still indictments of public officials to be brought. Again, that’s just based on the evidence we’ve all had a chance to see.

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One persistent Mingo caller who never leaves a return number wants to know who is “honest” in Charleston that could be talked to about corruption. Since we never seem to touch base at the same time, let me simply suggest the United States Attorney, Booth Goodwin. As I have said, Goodwin is doing the best job of any U.S. Attorney in recent memory.

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Call me with your rumors, story ideas or comments. Leave a number and I will return your calls to 304-533-5185. Or you can use my email listed here.

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