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Newspaper editor pleads guilty to misdemeanors

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The editor of the West Virginia Record has accepted a plea deal, which dropped a felony charge he was facing after allegedly admitting that he created fake vehicle inspection and registration stickers.

Brian C. "Chris" Dickerson, 42, of Hurricane, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in Putnam County Magistrate Court last week, according to court documents.

Dickerson was arrested earlier this month after a State Police trooper saw a fake motor vehicle inspection sticker on his blue Ford SUV, according to a criminal complaint filed in Putnam County Magistrate Court.

When Trooper B.K. Hammontree stopped him in the parking lot of the Putnam County Courthouse, Dickerson admitted he made the inspection sticker on his home computer and didn't have any insurance on the vehicle, according to the complaint.

Hammontree also wrote that Dickerson's registration sticker on his license plate was forged.

Dickerson was charged with violating a law that says it's a felony to forge any certificates issued by the state. He was also charged for not having vehicle insurance, a misdemeanor.

Putnam County Magistrate Kim Blair released Dickerson on a personal recognizance bond.

Dickerson accepted a deal that allowed him to plead guilty to two misdemeanors: no proof of insurance and not having a vehicle registration sticker. He was ordered to pay a fine of more than $600. Magistrate Kylene Dunlap Brown approved the deal.

Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia said Monday that he couldn't recall ever handling a case similar to Dickerson's.

"It was kind of bizarre, quite frankly," he said. "But the bottom line is, it didn't make sense to hang a felony on someone that didn't have a record of criminal behavior.

"If someone doesn't have a record, do you make them become a convicted felon over something dumb? I think the misdemeanors were appropriate. We recommended the maximum fines, and hopefully a lesson was learned," Sorsaia said.

When he was arrested, Dickerson was editor of the West Virginia Record, a free weekly paper funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform. The paper, which reports on lawsuits and legal matters throughout the state, strongly favors curbing what it claims are frivolous lawsuits in West Virginia.

Shortly after he was charged, Dickerson's name was removed from the Record's website, but his voicemail at the Record's office still identifies him as the editor. A reporter who answered the phone wouldn't comment on the situation. Dickerson couldn't be reached for comment.

Dickerson also is editor of LegalNewsline.com, which describes itself as an online newswire that covers state supreme courts and attorneys general. That website still lists him as editor.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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