Thursday, March 17, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-18-'11
- Federal prosecutors want to block Massey Energy Co. shareholders from reviewing documents gathered during civil and criminal investigations into last April's deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Shareholders, who are suing Massey, its officers and directors, want a chance to review documents turned over as part of ongoing civil and criminal investigations. The class-action fraud lawsuit accuses Massey of misleading investors and seeks damages for artificially pumping up its stock price. The U.S. Attorney's office for southern West Virginia is asking a federal judge to deny the shareholders' request, saying releasing the documents at this time would hurt efforts to prosecute Upper Big Branch security chief Hughie Stover who has pleaded not guilty to one count of lying to FBI and federal Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators and one count of obstruction of justice. His trial has been set for April 25th.
- Clinton Pugh has been charged with cultivating marijuana after the Kanawha County STOP Team, acting on a tip. went to his home in Marmet Wednesday night and found 120 marijuana plants, along with a large amount of the drug packaged to sell.
- Charleston Police are investigating after a man riding a bike was hit by a car at the foot of the South Side Bridge in downtown Charleston shortly after 9:00 A.M. Thursday morning. Dispatchers say the man was taken to the hospital with a broken leg.
- Despite a courthouse protest and loads of e-mails, phone calls, and letters, Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia says he's uninfluenced in the case of 40 year old Rudy Falbo of Hurricane. According to police and rescue personnel, Falbo attempted to intervene as they were trying to free his daughter, Caitlyn Falbo, 16, who was trapped in a wreck in January. Officials say he became aggressive when the effort wasn't going as quickly as he would like. Police officers, paramedics and firefighters wrestled Falbo to the ground. The incident ended in Falbo being dragged away from the car and tazed by police to subdue him. His son, Joshua Falbo, was also arrested after police say he attempted to intervene in the incident. Family, friends, and interested supporters of Falbo are pushing to have charges against him dismissed.
- According to the Charleston Police Department's year-end report, instances of violent crime, including homicide, rape and malicious wounding, were up across Charleston in 2010. There were 11 homicides last year, including one where 25 year old Charleston resident Timothy Paul Burdette was charged with murder after his girlfriend lost her baby shortly after a fight in June where he punched her in the stomach. Later, prosecutor Mark Plants dropped the murder charge after a medical examiner's report showed the miscarriage could not be definitely linked to the punch. This past year saw the highest rate of homicide since 2004, when there were 11 murders. In 2009, there were six murders, up from four in 2007 and 2008 and three in 2006. Of the 11 murders inside city limits, six occurred on the West Side, three on the South Side and two on the East End. The number of homicides on the West Side in 2010 doubled from the 2009 amount.
- Wheeling Jesuit University is hosting the fourth International Mining Health and Safety Symposium in Charleston on April 7-8 at the Charleston Civic Center. The event will bring together hundreds of leaders in the coal industry, labor and government to find solutions to the many challenges facing coal operators. Wheeling Jesuit vice president J. Davitt McAteer says the goal is to keep pace with technological advancements in safety. McAteer is also former head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The symposium will open with a moment of silence in memory of the 29 men killed April 5, 2010, in an explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal.
- Following a 3-2 approval by state the Home Rule Board Thursday, Huntington officials will move ahead with plans to levy a 1 percent occupation tax and a 1 percent sales and use tax. Mayor Kim Wolfe said the City Council has approved both taxes already. The city plans to begin collecting the occupation tax on July 1st and the sales tax on January 1st. The 1 percent occupation tax levied on the wages and earnings of people who work in the city is capped at the first $125,000 of income, meaning no one will pay more than $1,250 a year in occupation taxes. When the occupation tax takes effect, the city will no longer collect its $3-a-week user fee. When the sales and use tax takes effect, the city would repeal the business and occupation tax on manufacturers and halve the B&O tax on retail and service-based companies. City officials say the taxes could increase revenues by as much as $3.5 million a year. There could be one or more court challenges to the city’s plan.
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