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Mayor says prostitution complaint against lobbyist shouldn't have been dismissed

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said today that he does not believe the omission of a prominent lobbyist's name from a list of people arrested in a solicitation of prostitution sting in July was politically motivated, but he doesn't want it to happen again.

Phil Reale, a Charleston attorney and former chief of staff for Gov. Gaston Caperton, was arrested during a prostitution sting on the city's West Side. The Charleston Police Department issued a press release that included the names of others arrested during the sting, but not Reale's name.

Jones said Reale talked with City Attorney Paul Ellis and Charleston Police Sgt. Bobby Eggleton after he was arrested. The citation against Reale was dismissed, but Jones said it would be filed again.

"Whether it's me, my son or anybody, everybody should be treated the same," Jones said. "I have instructed the city attorney that that's the way I feel about it and that's the way we'll see it happen in the future."

Jones' son, Zachary, was sentenced in September to two years' probation after his completion of an addiction recovery program. Zachary Jones pleaded guilty to simple possession of a controlled substance in August.

Ellis denies any wrongdoing on his office's part, he said.

"I've never met Phil Reale. I don't know Phil Reale. I treated him like I would anybody else under the circumstances."

Legal diversions, such as Reale's, aren't uncommon, Ellis said. The office takes into consideration a defendant's prior criminal history, whether or not the person was cooperative during arrest and his or her personal issues.

"We're not out to try to destroy people," Ellis said. "If ... they're willing to go out and get some help, we're willing to work with them."

Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said the omission is a lesson learned for not only Eggleton, but the department as a whole.

"We want the information to be accurate," Webster said. "We're going to take this as an opportunity to look at our whole media policy."

Webster added that, after speaking with Eggleton, he doesn't believe there was malice or favoritism fueling his actions.

"I don't think there was any gain personally for Bobby," Webster said. "He thought Reale was suicidal based on his behavior."

Jones said no action will be taken against Eggleton or anyone else at the police department.

"Perhaps [Eggleton] was showing compassion to somebody else," Jones said. "Leaving him off that press release was a real mistake. It shouldn't have been done, and it won't happen again."

George Manahan, CEO of public relations firm The Manahan Group and Reale's spokesman, wrote in a statement that the two "are disappointed" in the city's response to Reale's dismissed citation.

"Phil has been appreciative of the professionalism that has been shown to him by the city police department and the city attorney," the statement reads.

But Manahan said that because Jones has indicated the city is considering re-filing the charges, it would be inapproriate for him to discuss the situation further.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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