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Man accused of assaulting daughters fires lawyer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Clendenin man fired his lawyer as part of an attempt to take back his guilty plea on charges he sexually assaulted his three daughters.

Billy Townsend, 40, of 959 Kelly Hill Road, told Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles E. King Wednesday that his court-appointed attorney Barbara Brown was "working with prosecutors" to get him to sign a plea agreement to sexual assault charges.

Townsend pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree sexual assault. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop a third sexual assault charge and recommend a 25- to 100-year sentence.

"At age 40, whether I took the plea or the original charges, that's a life sentence," Townsend said in a letter he wrote to King, which asked the judge to take Brown off the case.

Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Maryclaire Akers dismissed Townsend's decision to fire Brown as "reprehensible" and said that he was only trying to delay his sentence.

Brown said that she has had an apparent breakdown in communication with her client, but was prepared to assist him with a motion to rescind the plea. King agreed to appoint a new attorney.

On June 5, a woman told police that Townsend sexually assaulted her when she was younger than 12 years old, according to an affidavit signed by Kanawha County Sheriff's Deputy Sam Ferrell.

Townsend reportedly drove the girl to school, and on multiple occasions, pulled over to fondle her, the affidavit states.

The woman also told the officer that Townsend entered her room while she was sleeping, held her down, struck her in the stomach and sexually assaulted her, the affidavit states.

Townsend told the girl that he would kill her, her mother and himself if she told anyone, the affidavit states.

Townsend's wife told investigators that her husband admitted to the abuse and said that he stored child pornography on his computer while they were living in South Carolina. Those incidents were never reported to the police, she said, according to the affidavit.

Prosecutors filed an information against Townsend, accusing him of assaulting his three minor daughters. An information is a court document that generally indicates a defendant is willing to cooperate with prosecutors.

"Mr. Townsend has down atrocious things to his three daughters for many, many years," Akers said Wednesday.

Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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