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Nurse says Kanawha family judge’s behavior frightened her

By Kate White, Staff writer
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette
Kanawha Family Court Judge Mark Snyder talks with his lawyer, Jim Cagle, during his trial on a battery charge in magistrate court Wednesday.
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette Family Court Judge Mark Snyder was charged with battery on a health-care provider after a nurse said the judge grabbed her arm and yelled in her face last year.

A nurse testified Wednesday that she was scared when Kanawha Family Court Judge Mark Snyder grabbed her arm and yelled at her in the hallway at CAMC General Hospital last year.

Snyder’s attorney told jurors, however, that the judge — who is expected to testify today — never touched nurse Stephanie King and was just trying to get medical attention for his friend.

Snyder, who has served as a family judge for 14 years, is charged with battery on a health-care provider, a misdemeanor. His trial began Wednesday in Kanawha Magistrate Court.

“This is a huge case,” Jim Cagle, Snyder’s attorney told the six jurors. “Judge Mark Snyder’s name is being attacked. The possibility of him continuing as a judge is at stake. His retirement may even be at stake.”

Last November, Tony Serreno, a former Charleston attorney, was in the hospital, scheduled to have his leg amputated. That week, he had already had parts of his foot cut off, he said Wednesday.

After being moved from the second to the fifth floor, Serreno said, he couldn’t get nurses to provide him any pain medication or makeup his bed.

“I had made every effort to get pain medication. I can’t tell you how many times I asked,” he said. “I was in acute, chronic pain, and I was very anxious. Quite candidly, I was dying.”

Because Serreno’s name hadn’t yet shown up in the computer system, King said, she couldn’t give him medication. Serreno wasn’t angry when he asked for help — but Snyder was, she said.

“A gentleman came up yelling, saying his friend wasn’t being taken care of,” King testified about Snyder. She stepped out of the nurse’s station and told Snyder she would walk with him back to Serreno’s room and explain the situation to all of Serreno’s visitors at once.

That’s when King says the judge grabbed her upper arm, “and said something like, ‘Yes, we are,’ ” she said. “It scared me, I hadn’t been grabbed by anybody before.”

King said she jerked away from Snyder and asked another nurse to call security. He continued yelling, she testified.

Charleston Police Officer E.J. Tipton testified that he found King crying in the lounge when he arrived.

Cagle said Snyder left on his own, after being asked, and argued that a neurological disorder would have prevented the judge from dragging King down the hallway. If he touched her in any way, it would have been only because he’s unsteady and walks with a cane, Cagle told jurors.

Dr. Glenn Goldfarb testified that, if Snyder had hold of King’s arm like she claims, when she jerked away, the judge would have toppled over. Goldfarb said that, because of diabetes, Snyder has nerve damage in his legs and has suffered a stroke, which damaged the part of the brain that controls balance.

The day after the incident, West Virginia Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury filed a complaint against Snyder with the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel. The Supreme Court issued an order saying the matter would be put on hold, pending the outcome of the battery charge.

The trial was delayed several times after Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants’ office recused itself from the case and asked that a special prosecutor be appointed because Cagle represents Plants on criminal charges. Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph was appointed to prosecute Snyder.

He said jurors must determine if physical contact occurred.

“This is a case of simple battery,” Randolph said.

Cagle painted the picture of Serreno suffering terribly in the hospital and his friend trying to get him help. He said King has exaggerated the incident.

King “did nothing for the patient,” Cagle told jurors.

Serreno echoed that statement.

“We’ve all been in the hospital,” he said. “If you don’t have somebody with you, you’re more than just alone.”

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


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