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As trial dates loom, Plants hasn’t accepted new deal

By Kate White, Staff writer

The special prosecutor handling the misdemeanor charges against Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants is waiting to hear whether Plants will accept an amended deal or go to trial.

Plants hasn’t registered in a batterer’s intervention program in Putnam County, despite saying he would in the latest deal he made with former longtime McDowell County prosecutor Sid Bell.

During a June 24 hearing, Plants agreed to attend the 32-week program and compliance hearings held by a magistrate in order to have the domestic battery and violation of a domestic violence protective order dropped against him. However, soon after the hearing, Putnam Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia said it was illegal for the deal to have guaranteed the charges dropped upon completion of the program.

Bell responded in a letter to Sorsaia saying he would change the wording in the order to say the charges “may” be dropped against Plants if he completes the program.

Bell said Thursday he sent an amended version of the order earlier this week to Plants’ attorney, Jim Cagle. He followed up with another email asking Cagle to let him know by the end of the week their decision.

“To know if we need to prepare jury instructions,” Bell said.

Cagle wouldn’t say Thursday afternoon whether Plants will accept the amended order or go to trial. Plants wouldn’t comment.

Trials would be later this month and in late August, according to Bell. Mercer Magistrate Mike Flanigan has said there would be separate trials for each charge.

Plants is charged with domestic battery of his 11-year-old son after Plants left a 6- to 7-inch bruise with a belt on the boy’s leg. He is also charged with violating a domestic violence protection order that required him to stay away from his ex-wife and their sons. The pretrial monitoring program is sometimes how cases under Kanawha’s domestic violence pilot program are handled.

After Plants was charged, the State Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which oversees attorneys in the state, asked the state Supreme Court to immediately suspend his law license and/or remove his office from handling cases of domestic violence involving parents and minor children until it completed an investigation. The city of Charleston followed up with its own petition asking Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom to bar Plants’ office from certain cases.

Bloom ruled first and appointed former assistant prosecutor Don Morris to handle cases involving domestic violence related charges. Supreme Court justices decided that was enough for the time being. Morris is being paid $200 an hour by the county commission.

The latest potential deal replaces one reached in May that included a pre-trial diversion agreement, which would have dropped the charges if Plants stayed out of trouble for a year. Bell said he later realized that pre-trial diversion deals are illegal in cases of domestic violence unless it’s done in conjunction with a community corrections program.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1723 or @KateLWhite on Twitter.


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