West Virginia Court Rules Prostitutes Can Only Be Charged With Misdemeanors

Prostitutes arrested in West Virginia cannot be charged with a felony after a ruling from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

Prostitute WV

The West Virginia justices have reversed a decision that made the third offense of prostitution a felony against the prostitute.

The ruling comes after an appeal by Belinda Fuller, who was arrested for third-offense prostitution. The charge did come with a one to three-year state prison sentence. The vote tally for the ruling was 3-2.

Wednesday, the court ruled that the third or subsequent felony offense doesn’t apply to a person who engages in an act of prostitution.

“With the decision, she has a felony off of her record and most importantly, obviously, she is being released from jail,” said Russell Cook, Fuller’s public defender.

The court documented that third or subsequent felony offense provision only applies to the third parties who financially benefit from the earnings of a prostitute. Examples from the Supreme Court of Appeals include a pimp, panderer, solicitor or operator.

According to the court documents, the court found the third offense provision in WV to be “ambiguous” causing the court to reverse the circuit court’s order from February 2016 that denied Fuller’s motion to dismiss the indictment charging her with a felony offense.

The opinion encourages the Legislature to take a closer look at the statute to provide clarity given it has multiple interpretations.

Meanwhile, Cabell County Prosecutor Corky Hammers would like to see the third offense language apply to prostitutes, as well. “We need to lobby for a change,” Hammers said. “I would assume that the Legislature wants prostitutes who are continuously out there committing these crimes, I would say that by the time they commit a third time or subsequent time they would want it to be a felony offense.”

Hammers is unsure of how this will play out with prior convictions but says those offenders will likely have to be released or re-charged with a lesser crime.

The other unknown is the future of Huntington’s Women’s Empowerment and Addiction Recovery (WEAR) Program.

The program, which began in 2015 as an extension of the Cabell County drug court through a grant, helps women who’ve turned to prostitution to feed their drug habit.

Hammers says an offender must be charged with a felony to be eligible for the program. He is unsure of what will happen now after the ruling.

 

According to court documents, the court says it is undisputed that a prostitute who offers to commit an act of prostitution can be charged with first and second offenses in West Virginia Code.

The third offense is a felony offense that ““shall only apply to the pimp, panderer, solicitor, operator or any person benefiting financially or otherwise from the earnings of a prostitute.”


Applicant For Roane County Superintendent Busted For Prostitution!

Dennis Albright

Dennis Albright

Update

In a board meeting, last night Roane County Schools Board of Education members announced who they will be interviewing for the position. Those names are as follows.

Richard D. Duncan, Ph.D.

Robin Joy Lewis

Timothy L. Payton

Tony Minney, Ed.D.

William E. Chapman, Ed.D.

 

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Former Wetzel County Schools superintendent Dennis Albright has tossed his name in the hat for Roane County Schools Superintendent. In February of 2015 Albright was in Charleston, WV at a meeting representing Wetzel County Schools. He ended up being involved a Prostitution Sting operation that the Charleston police department was doing that same night. Albright was arrested along with five other people that night.

According to police, the six men contacted undercover officers and came to a hotel in Charleston based on an online advertisement. All of the men then negotiated for sexual favors before being arrested. In response to the arrest, Michael Blair, the president of the Wetzel County Board of Education issued the following statement:

“I was shocked this morning to hear the news of our county Superintendent’s arrest in Charleston, WV. Naturally, at this moment, the Board is not aware of all the relevant facts and must exercise discretion and restraint before meeting to consider taking any official action. In due course, the Board of Education will call an official public meeting and consider what actions to pursue. In the meantime, in the absence of the county Superintendent, our Assistant Superintendent Jay Yeager will serve as the chief administrative officer of the school system per his written job description.”

It’s a crime you may be used to seeing on the streets, but the oldest professional in the world has evolved.
“Now with the advancement of the Internet and technology, we have less prostitution in the streets and more of it now online,” said Lt. Steve Cooper with the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department.

Thursday night, the Charleston Police Department used this new high-tech hustling in a sting.
They placed pictures of two undercover female officers online as bait and then waited.
One by one, police say six men came from all across the region, meeting the women at a hotel in Charleston and agreeing to pay for sexual favors.
One by one, the faces from behind the screen, soon had mugshots.

Detectives did not know Albright was a county school superintendent until word circulated about his arrest. He told officers he was visiting Charleston.
“He told detectives he was here on legislative business. Sometimes men who come into town from a different area will go onto the internet and look for escorts. That’s what we’re trying to deter now,” Cooper said.

Is this someone the parents of the children in Roane County will want at the top of the leadership ladder for the schools? If my children were going to school there I can promise you that I would be on the phone with the board office asking questions and demanding answers.

Below is a list of all the applicants that are aiming for the top seat at Roane County Schools with their current positions included.

David Sheldon Tupper, Ed. D., Principal Wirt County Middle School, Wirt County Schools, Elizabeth, WV.

Dennis Albright, Education Building Supervisor, Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore, Maryland

Richard D. Duncan, Ph.D., Director of Human Resources & Information Services, Mingo County Schools

Robin Joy Lewis, executive director Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) 1, Beckley, WV.

Timothy L. Payton, principal Oak Hill High School, Oak Hill, Fayette County WV.

Tony Minney, Ed.D., coordinator of School Improvement / Professional Learning, West Virginia Department of Education, Charleston, WV.

William E. Chapman, Ed.D., Director of Federal Programs, Child Nutrition & Personnel, Roane County Schools, Spencer, WV.

WV Senate Passes a Budget Bill.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After a brief talk with Gov. Jim Justice, the West Virginia Senate voted 19-11 to approve a bill that’s a key part of a state budget plan of $4.35 billion.

“It’s really a great day,” said Mitch Carmichael, Senate President.

The vote was largely along party lines, with Democrats voting against the proposal. A similar bill passed the Senate almost two weeks ago, 32-1.

Senate Democrats, rather than voting for the bill as it stood, put forward an amendment to remove portions aimed at lowering the personal income tax and substituting in an income tax exemption for Social Security recipients.

READ THE AMENDED BILL 

 

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Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, made the case for the amendment as a more responsible option than the plan to reduce the income tax while raising other taxes.

No fiscal assessment of the revenue bill has been made publicly available.

“The way we’ve gone about reducing income tax is piecemeal. It’s hard to tell where we’re going to end up to get a zero income tax,” Prezioso said.

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates, where the Republican majority has already said it will be subject to significant amendment.

The bill aims to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year largely by raising the state sales tax to 6.95 percent and broadening what is subject to the tax.

It also incorporates a reduction in the personal income tax six months after the other taxes are increased, allowing for a revenue cushion meant to keep the budget balanced.

House members have expressed concerns about the taxes that would be raised, the potential for holes in future budgets and how lower- and middle-income wage earners might be affected.

“What we intend to do is work that bill and either put in our version or pass a version — an originated bill — and pass our version,” House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said Tuesday morning on MetroNews’ Talkline.

“There will be action on the proposals, but I think it’s more likely that there will be a modified version that puts in some of what we think should be in it.”

Governor Justice made a rare appearance in the state Senate chamber about 4:30 p.m. today, encouraging lawmakers to vote in favor of the revenue bill he has been negotiating for weeks with the Republican majority.

“It’s a hell of a plan,” Justice, a Democrat, said during a speech that lasted about 10 minutes.

Members of the House of Delegates also came into the Senate chambers to listen to Justice’s remarks, which appeared to be spontaneous.

 

 

 

There were delays all day, with both houses going in at 11 a.m. but recessing within minutes as changes were made behind the scenes to the revenue bill.

The House of Delegates came back into session at 3:30 but then adjourned until 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The Senate came back into session for less than a minute at 2 p.m. and adjourned until 4 p.m. when the governor came in for his remarks.

Some of the delays had to do with ironing out the language of the bill, particularly parts dealing with economic triggers to reduce the personal income tax and other parts removing newly-established taxes on some sectors of the economy in favor of an increase in the corporate net income tax.

The House and Senate are scheduled to return at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Budget negotiations continue in special session despite a memo warning of government shutdown

West Virginia legislatures are back after a 10-day break to resume a special session on the budget Monday. With the Justice administration and Senate leadership tweaking a revenue plan in hopes of gaining support in the House of Delegates.

With a state government shutdown looming in just 46 days, chief of staff for Justice, Nick Casey, sent a memorandum Monday to state cabinet secretaries, directing them to prepare contingency plans for continuing essential services after July 1 if no budget bill is passed.

“In an abundance of caution, you need to start developing a contingency plan for all your agencies as to how to proceed should the budget not be in place to be effective on July 1, 2017,” Casey stated in the memo.

“Your planning must identify essential and non-essential services,” the memo added.

Casey requests that the contingency plans be submitted to the governor’s office by May 30, and notes that if the budget impasse is resolved before July 1, the exercise of classifying essential and nonessential services could help identify options for consolidating services and finding financial efficiencies in the future.

Gov. Jim Justice amended the special session call to include legislation, “employee protection bill”, to allow him to furlough state employees in the event of a government shutdown.

Under the current law, if state government shuts down, state employees would effectively be terminated on July 1, and would have to be rehired once a new budget takes effect, potentially costing them health insurance coverage, seniority, and other benefits.

“We have to prepare for the worst case scenario, and if that day comes I want to ensure all of our state workers are protected,” Justice stated. “It’s not right for our state workforce to lose their health insurance coverage or see their benefits disappear on July 1 if there is no budget in place. This bill needs to pass in order to safeguard state employees.”

On at least three occasions, including the past two regular sessions, the Legislature has declined to pass a furlough bill.

In the past, state employee unions have objected that the legislation could allow administrations to require state employees to take unpaid leave days to save money.

Meanwhile, the resumption of the special session got off to a fitful start Monday, as both houses met briefly and recessed, awaiting the drafting of the latest Justice/Senate compromise on the revenue plan.

According to Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, many of the tweaks in the latest version are intended to address objections House Republicans had to the earlier versions of the revenue bill.

“If they don’t like this plan, then what is it?” Carmichael said. “For those who want to say no, it’s incumbent on them to offer an alternative. Saying no is not an alternative.”

Some of the tweaks offered Monday include:

Lowering a proposed increase in the consumer sales tax from 7 percent to 6.85 percent, while eliminating some current sales tax exemptions on business-to-business transactions to make up the difference.

Phasing in a roughly 20 percent reduction in personal income tax rates over two years, to reduce the impact of lost revenue in the 2018-19 budget year.

Increasing the state privilege tax on motor vehicle purchases from 5 percent to 6 percent, providing $40 million for Justice’s road building program. That would allow an equivalent reduction in proposed increases in state gas taxes to provide that funding, reducing the total increase to less than $60 million.

Eliminating a proposed temporary increase in the state corporate net tax from 6.5 to 8.5 percent that would have raised about $45 million a year.

House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, said Monday he has doubts about whether the revised plan will garner much support among House Republicans who soundly rejected two earlier versions of the bill.

He noted that only two members of the 64-member Republican caucus indicated support for the 7 percent sales tax, and said the 6.85 percent rate is probably not low enough to persuade others.

“I think there’s growing consensus for simplification,” Cowles said.

Critics of the Justice/Senate plan note that it closes the shortfall in the 2017-18 state budget only because the proposed tax increases would go into effect on July 1, six months before the income tax rate reductions would become effective on Jan. 1, 2018, but that it creates future deficits beginning in 2018-19.

“It underscores the fact that this is a tax cut,” Carmichael said of the revenue projections. “Secondly, it underscores the fact that this governor and this Legislature are invested in the growth these bills will produce with the roads package and the tax cuts.”

Carmichael said the state plan is designed to avoid scenarios experienced in states such as Kansas, where reductions in income tax rates caused massive state budget deficits.

“In contrast to what some of these other states have done when they’ve made these tax cuts, we’re controlling government spending,” he said. “In inflation-adjusted numbers, this government will shrink.”

Monday marked the third day of the special session, at an estimated cost of $35,000 a day.

 

West Virginia’s budget dilemma remains unresolved.

In an interestingly rough start to a special session to create a budget for the coming fiscal year, the House of Delegates has now rejected two versions of the budget framework, the decision has been made to recess until May 15.

After a strenuous day of meetings on  Friday, the Senate was able to pass a bill with a 32-1 vote (Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, was the only no vote). This measure would have cut income taxes, lowered coal severance taxes, eliminated natural gas severance taxes and imposed a variation of Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed “millionaire tax.”

The House of Delegates convened immediately after the Senate voted, squashed the bill on a 59-34 vote. It killed an earlier version of the bill late Thursday.

“We can control what we do in this body, and we’re providing tax cuts for West Virginians and their families,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson.

With the opposition saying it cuts taxes but ends up costing taxpayers more money through the broadened sales tax base and increased fees, Carmichael still defended the bill.

“What this purely and simply is, when you vote for or against this bill, you’re voting on a tax cut,” he said. “There’s no other way to describe this. Anyone that votes against this bill, is voting against a tax cut for working West Virginia families.”

“How will we help the will of the people if we keep killing bills on first reading?” asked Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo, who made the motion.

After rebutting comments from House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, the House squashed the motion before killing the bill altogether.

After the votes Friday, House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said the House needs to be involved in negotiations with the Senate and the governor, reiterating his complaint from the past several weeks that delegates had been left out.

In an interview before the vote, Armstead said it was no secret that the House would strike down the Senate’s bill. He said it was just a waste of time.

“I think the continued insistence on this piece of legislation is just going to delay us [from] reaching a budget resolution,” Armstead said. “It’s just going to be costing the taxpayers every day that we continue to chase this bill. I don’t think the House could have made its position any clearer than it did last night [Thursday]. This piece of legislation is not going to be adopted by the House.”

Justice called a news conference after the House vote, at which he lashed out at House Republicans for sending an otherwise unanimous budget into the trash. He said that if the state government were a stool, four of the five legs (the governor, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and House Democrats) are all keeping it upright while the fifth leg is acting “strangely.”

He again denied claims from Armstead that the House had been left out of the negotiating process, and said that chamber has made it clear that it will not negotiate.

“Do you really believe by their actions that they really want to compromise? That they really want to talk? Or they really want to negotiate?” he said. “If they wanted to do that, then why didn’t they just send this to committee, send some of their members back out to the Senate to work. They really don’t want to do that, and that’s what I ran into over and over again.”

Before Friday’s votes and the ultimate decision to recess, Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said the stalemate is evidence that the special legislative session was convened prematurely.

With all the infighting, the pathway forward is unclear. Armstead said he was ready to begin negotiating a new budget plan as soon as Friday night. During his news conference, Justice said he would be willing, as well.

The Legislature is scheduled to reconvene May 15.

 

Grey Death, Coming to a street corner near you?

Heroin that looks like concrete, called “Grey Death,” which is a mixture of even more dangerous opioid drugs, has in triggered dozens of overdoses this year, including four fatal ones reported on Thursday in Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio.

“We are more routinely seeing deadly cocktails of heroin, fentanyl, various fentanyl-class substances, along with combinations of other controlled substances,” Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Russ Baer. Grey Death, he added, is “unfortunately not strange, but a commonplace example of the real world we all live in nowadays.”

Heroin isn’t just heroin anymore. In multiple East Coast cities, the white powder being sold as heroin contains only fentanyl, according to reports from April’s Perscription Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta.

Addicts dependent on opioids require regular doses of the drug to avoid searing withdrawal symptoms. The euphoria the drugs deliver to brain cells that quickly become habituated, this dependence partly explains why someone would snort or inject something that looks like concrete.

Is this stuff coming to a street corner near you, or is it already there?

A fatal dose of Grey Death beside penny.

The drug is also turning up in seizures of cocaine, methamphetamines, and other illegal drugs, Baer said.

“No one should underestimate the deadly nature associated with these cocktails,” he said. “You can buy one of these cocktails for $10 to $20 on the street and lose your life in a few seconds.”

Carfentanil, an even more potent opioid that probably bears responsibility for two overdose deaths reported yesterday near Pittsburgh, requires only a microscopic amount to kill. Police officers have started wearing gloves to prevent overdosing simply from skin contact with seized samples.

Indivisible Protest in Wood County

Several members of Wood County Indivisible spent their morning protesting in support of saving the Affordable Care Act.

The group met at 10 a.m. today. Around a dozen individuals from the group gathered on Market Street in front of Representative David Mckinley’s Parkersburg office to make sure he heard their voices.

They said their goal was to let Mckinley and other members of congress know that the American Health Care Act, “Trumpcare”, will kill them.

According to the national Indivisible organization, the new health care bill strips coverage from nearly 24 million Americans. The new bill also allows individual states to waive Affordable Care Act regulations.

“He owes it to the constituents of West Virginia to make sure that our health care is protected,” said Jeanne Peters, one of the protesters.

Members of the group say they are wanting McKinley to vote “no” on any revised version of the health care bill.

Representative McKinley did not appear to be at his office when the rallying took place.

 


The Race for US Senate is on in WV

A West Virginia coal miner who called out presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on her comments to the coal industry during a 2016 election event said he will run for the U.S. Senate.

Bo Copley, 40, announced his intentions on Tuesday to enter the 2018 race on the Republican ticket.

“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country”  “Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?” were Clinton’s remarks at the March 2016 event.

Clinton is now calling it a “misstatement.”

The Dingess native, Copley, has been laid off since September 2015.

In order for him to race against  U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va he will first have to win the Republican primary.

U.S. Rep Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey are being considered as possible candidates to run against Copley.

 

West Virginia Department of Education to hold meetings on education plan

The West Virginia Department of Education has plans to hold several meetings as it continues development for the states replacement plan for the No Child Left Behind Act.

All states must have their plans submitted no later than the end of September to the U.S. Department of Education for the Every Student Succeeds Act. The act was signed into law in December 2015 to replace No Child Left Behind.

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United Mine Workers benefits looking secure

A permanent fix to fund the health-care benefits for more than 20,000 retired coal miners is included in a $1 trillion budget deal made public by Congressional leaders early this morning.

The language sought by the United Mine Workers union is a three-page section that starts on page 1,660 of a 1,665-page bill that would fund government operations through for the rest of the budget year, which runs through the end of September.

Lawmakers unveiled the legislative language early this morning, with a bill that would deny President Donald Trump money for a border wall and rejects his proposed cuts to popular domestic programs.

The catchall spending bill would be the first major piece of bipartisan legislation to advance during Trump’s short tenure in the White House. While losing on funding for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump won a $15 billion down payment on his request to strengthen the military, though that too fell short of what he requested.

The measure funds the remainder of the 2017 budget year, through Sept. 30, rejecting cuts to popular domestic programs targeted by Trump such as medical research and infrastructure grants.

Successful votes later this week would also clear away any remaining threat of a government shutdown — at least until the Oct. 1 start of the 2018 budget year. Trump has submitted a partial 2018 budget promising a whopping $54 billion, 10 percent increase for the Pentagon from current levels, financed by cutting to foreign aid and other nondefense programs by an equal amount. Negotiators on the pending measure, however, rejected a smaller $18 billion package of cuts and instead slightly increased funding for domestic programs.

More than 20,000 UMW retirees and family members have faced having their health-care benefits cut off following a series of mining company bankruptcies amid the coal industry’s historic downturn.

The budget deal needs approval with votes in both the Senate and House, but is almost certain to receive that approval.