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County doesn’t have to pay for prosecution of family judge

By Kate White, Staff writer

Last week, yet another special prosecutor was appointed to handle a case in Kanawha County, as a result of the pending criminal charges against Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants.

But unlike the first two special prosecutors appointed, Kanawha County doesn’t have to foot the hourly bill for this one.

Keith Randolph, Boone County’s prosecuting attorney, was appointed to prosecute the case against Kanawha Family Court Judge Mark Snyder, who is charged with battery on a health-care provider, a misdemeanor. Police say Snyder grabbed a nurse by the arm and yelled in her face at CAMC General Hospital last November. Snyder has requested a jury trial in magistrate court.

Randolph was appointed to the case by the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute because Snyder’s attorney, Jim Cagle, also represents Plants — making it a conflict for the Kanawha prosecutor’s office to handle that case. The Prosecuting Attorneys Institute will cover Randolph’s costs in the case.

Plants is charged with domestic battery of his 11-year-old son. Police say he struck his son with a belt and left a 6- to 7-inch bruise on the boy’s thigh. He’s also charged with violating a domestic violence protective order.

After State Police said they were investigating Plants, all Kanawha Circuit Court judges recused themselves from any potential case involving Plants. The West Virginia Supreme Court subsequently appointed Mercer Circuit Judge Derek Swope.

Swope asked the Prosecuting Attorneys Institute to appoint a special prosecutor to Plants’ case.

However, Philip Morrison, director of the institute, wrote Swope a letter saying he wasn’t permitted to make an appointment because Plants is a voting member of the institute.

Swope then appointed former McDowell County prosecuting attorney Sid Bell to prosecute Plants — and said the Kanawha County Commission should pay for it.

Whenever a judge appoints a prosecutor it’s up to a county’s commission to cover the costs. When the institute appoints a special prosecutor — which is typically the case — the commission doesn’t have to pay an hourly rate for the prosecutor, because it has already paid an annual fee.

For example, Kanawha County pays $4,500 a year to be a member of the institute, according to County Manager Jennifer Sayre.

The Kanawha Commission has so far paid around $10,000 for Bell’s salary at $125 an hour plus mileage.

Commissioners set Morris’ pay at $200 an hour.

Morris was appointed by Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom to prosecute all of the county’s cases involving child abuse and neglect, violent crimes against children by parents or guardians and criminal violations of protective orders.

Reach Kate White at

kate.white@wvgazette.com

or 304-348-1723.


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