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Kanawha prosecutor's ex-wife accuses him of child abuse

Chip Ellis
Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants on Thursday addresses allegations of child abuse against him. The West Virginia State Police is investigating the claim.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County family court judge issued an emergency order Thursday keeping county Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants away from his ex-wife and their children, after she accused him of child abuse.

Family Court Judge Mike Kelly granted Allison Plants the emergency domestic-violence protective order, according to her attorney, Mike Clifford.

The West Virginia State Police began investigating the case after the agency got a complaint Wednesday from Allison Plants, saying that the prosecutor "abused one of his children by disciplining him in an excessive manner," according to a news release from the State Police.

Mark Plants and Allison Plants have two sons. She filed for divorce in June 2012.

Plants said at a news conference Thursday that he and his ex-wife "agreed that spanking on occasion is an appropriate form of discipline."

The prosecutor said he is "absolutely disgusted" that his children are being used in "politically motivated allegations." He accused his ex-wife of "political mudslinging," because she hired Charleston attorney Clifford to represent her.

"This was not an issue until I recently got remarried and she recently hired Mike Clifford," Plants said. "This is a page right out of Mike Clifford's playbook."

Clifford, who had Plants' job as Kanawha County prosecutor from 2001 to 2005, said he and Charleston attorney Ed Rebrook are representing Allison Plants.

When told that Plants had accused him of mudslinging, Clifford said, "I'm not going to try these people's personal history in the press."

Before the news conference, Allison Plants said her attorney had advised her not to comment.

Sgt. M.S. Adams of the State Police Crimes Against Children Unit in Wheeling is investigating the complaint. Mark Plants said he's cooperating with the State Police investigation and has talked to Adams. He did not take questions from reporters at his news conference.

Plants, 37, was first elected as Kanawha prosecutor in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012.

Last month, Plants married Sarah Foster, his former secretary. He recently has been criticized for the $15,000 in pay raises she received during the four years she worked for Plants.

Foster was hired at a salary of $30,000 a year, replacing a secretary who made $43,000. By the time she left the prosecutor's office, Foster's salary was authorized at $45,000.

Foster also had multiple motor-vehicle violations dismissed in magistrate court without proof that the violations were corrected.

The state Office of Disciplinary Counsel has an open investigation into Plants, and the prosecutor has said that it's regarding the alleged favoritism.

Plants has said Foster's salary was not out of line with what he paid his other secretaries and assistants. He also denies having any involvement in his wife's tickets being dismissed.

Plants choked back tears as he talked about his children at Thursday's news conference. He said being a father comes first, before his job.

"My number-one, most important job is to be a father and to raise law-abiding, respectable children," Plants said. "If we had more parents who raised their children in a respectable manner, we would likely have less criminals."

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

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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