CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two Kanawha County magistrates say police asked for leniency when setting bond on Desmond Demetrius Clark because he was providing information to police.
There are different levels of informant, not all are paid, according to several magistrates who agreed to talk for this story on the condition of anonymity because the judicial code of ethics forbids them from talking about cases.
"They [the police] never tell you he is paid. You never know if they are paid or not. They never say they are paying [someone] to be an informant," a magistrate said. "Usually, the informants I know don't get paid."
Clark is charged with killing the mother of his child, Na'lisha Fiona Gravely, at a Taco Bell on Charleston's West Side on Saturday.
Six of 10 Kanawha County magistrates were interviewed for this story. In addition to the two who confirmed that police asked for leniency for Clark, two others confirmed that police asked for leniency on other offenders besides Clark.
A fifth magistrate would say only that Clark had never been in their courtroom. The sixth magistrate said unequivocally that police never asked for leniency for Clark.
As for other cases, officers often will tell the magistrates whether the person cooperated or not, but that's as far as it goes, the magistrate said.
"I have never had an officer PR someone if they have done violence," the magistrate said. "If it's nonviolent, simple possession, they might ask." (Defendants who receive personal recognizance, or PR, bonds don't have to put up bail immediately to avoid being held in jail.)
Another magistrate agreed that police don't tell magistrates whether someone is a paid informant when they ask for leniency. There is a distinction, according to the magistrate, between informants that are paid informants for police and those that may just provide a little information.
Paid informants are credible enough to be used in court cases, wear a wire or buy drugs for police. But there are others who give useful information to police who are not paid. They can give police good information, but they wouldn't be used in a court case, often because of their long criminal histories.
"Generally, those CIs, confidential informants, are people who have been charged previously. Some are concerned citizens," the magistrate said. "Then they always have people on the street. Officers cultivate that. They give information but are not used for search warrants, but just as information gatherers."
Sgt. S.A. Cooper, chief detective for the Charleston Police Department, said Tuesday that Clark was not a confidential informant for the department's criminal investigation division. Lt. C.A. Carpenter, head of the Metro Drug Unit, said Clark wasn't an informant for his agency.
"There is nothing to suggest [Clark] was working as a CI for any law enforcement agency, state, local or federal," at least in the drug arena, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Frail said this week.
"That includes all the law enforcement agencies from Parkersburg south," said Frail, who oversees federal drug cases in the Southern District of West Virginia.
On Wednesday, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones held a news conference to say that Clark was not a paid criminal informant for police in Kanawha County.
"Desmond Clark was not, was never a sanctioned, paid, continuous, any kind of informant for the Charleston Police Department or any law enforcement agency that I am aware of in this area," Jones said.
The distinction between paid CIs and people who provide information rarely, if ever, makes it to the ears of magistrates, the magistrate said.
Police will tell magistrates that someone is giving good information and ask that to be taken into consideration for bail, the magistrate said.