Tuesday, April 05, 2011


EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...4-6-'11

Two Huntington residents pleaded guilty in federal court to crack charges. Stephen Hicks, 48, pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine base, also known as crack.
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Lakasia Woolfolk, 24, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the distribution of crack. In June 2010, an undercover agent arranged through Woolfolk the purchase of two 8-balls of crack cocaine to be delivered by Hicks to Smokin' Aces in Huntington. Hicks admitted to arriving at the store to deliver the crack cocaine and while inside, called Woolfolk to discuss the details of the drug transaction. Hicks also admitted to the amount of crack sold to the undercover agent was short of the original agreement. Hicks also admitted to making additional sales of crack cocaine at the same location three other times in June 2010. Both Hicks and Woolfolk face up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine when they are sentenced on July 11, 2011.

A Charleston man has pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell more than 3.4 million contraband cigarettes. Basim Ali Talouzi also pleaded guilty Monday to distribution of oxycodone. He faces up to 25 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine when he is sentenced June 27 in U.S. District Court in Huntington. According to prosecutors, Talouzi conspired with others to buy, transport and sell contraband cigarettes between July 2010 and last month. The total tax loss to West Virginia on the 17,112 cartons of contraband smokes was just over $94,000. Talouzi also admitted selling oxycodone pills to undercover federal agents.

A jury has found a Charleston man not guilty of domestic battery after he punched his pregnant girlfriend in the belly. The victim, Nastacha Caudill, told jurors that Timothy Paul Burdette was so mad that she wouldn't give him money that he also threw pizza at her and jerked her out of a recliner chair.  Caudill called police after the altercation at a Sixth Avenue home and became ill while being questioned. She miscarried the three-month fetus a few days later. Prosecutor Mark Plants originally charged Burdette, 25, with murder under the state's Unborn Victims of Violence Act. He became the second person in Kanawha County charged under that law.  But the charge of murder against Burdette was dismissed in September when Plants said a report from the state Medical Examiner did not confirm that the fetus died as a result of the punch. Burdette denies he punched Caudill, and on Monday his defense attorney insisted to the jury that prosecution did not introduce evidence sufficient to convict him.  His court-appointed defense attorney, Barbara Brown, told the jury Caudill's testimony was inconsistent and should not be believed, saying  he never struck that woman.

Frederick Thomas Butts, 42, of Charleston, was supposed to go on trial this week, but a circuit judge agreed to postpone to give defense attorneys more time to prepare. He's charged with 274 counts of sexual abuse and incest. The trial is now scheduled for May 2nd.  In the meantime, an assistant prosecutor asked Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King to limit Butts' phone calls and visits at South Central Regional Jail. Erica Lord told King that Butts and his sister, Lori Butts, had conspired in telephone calls to intimidate a witness and do everything possible to keep her from coming to the trial.
The victim was 5 years old when the alleged sexual abuse began, and she told police it occurred every weekend for years. Now 15, she is in the custody of Child Protective Services. King agreed to the limitations on Butts, who is being held without bond. King denied a motion to reduce that.  Butts has pleaded not guilty.

Central Appalachia's largest coal producer idled dozens of mines across three states for a time to honor the 29 miners who died at one of its West Virginia mines a year ago.  Massey Energy's action was to honor the victims of last April 5th's Upper Big Branch mine explosion. Public and private memorial services were held in the state Capitol, Beckley and Whitesville throughout the day. A candlelight vigil was held for the evening in Whitesville. Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis participated during the day. The explosion was the deadliest to strike the U.S. coal industry since 1970. Regulators and federal prosecutors are still investigating. Massey operates mines in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky.

Authorities are urging Kanawha Valley residents to check their credit and bank statements after
Charleston police have received numerous complaints of debit and credit card fraud in the past two to four weeks.
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The  U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office are investigating the thefts.

Two Kentucky men and one West Virginian have been sentenced to one year and one day for conspiring to steal diesel fuel worth more than $900,000. The men were sentenced Monday in federal court in Huntington. They are 47-year-old Darrell Glen Deerfield of Rush, Ky.; 52-year-old Joey Williams of Greenup, Ky.; and 40-year-old Paul David Smith of Barboursville. The defendants pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to transport and sell goods stolen from interstate shipments. According to prosecutors, Deerfield worked for a company that transported diesel fuel to be used by CSX trains. They say Deerfield conspired with Williams and Smith to steal fuel from a facility in Russell, Ky., and that Smith then sold the fuel to businesses and individuals in West Virginia and Kentucky.  

A major storm ripped through the area causing over 29,000 customers to lose power in Kanawha County Monday night.  Monday's severe storms left a mark on several homes throughout the area, as well as Kanawha County's Metro 911 phone service. According to Metro 911, phone calls made to 911 were not able to connect. As of 8:18 p.m., according to Metro 911, their  line was back and working.  According to Appalachian Power, several counties reported power outages.  As of 11:03 p.m., according to Appalachian Power's website, over 26,000 customers in Kanawha County are without power.  At one point, Kanawha County was reporting over 29,000 customers without power.
At least one person has been killed while riding an ATV over the weekend.  According to the Belle Fire Department, the two individuals were out riding the ATVs when they became stuck in some mud by a slate mine in the area of Witcher Creek.  One of the individuals went back for help while the other stayed with the vehicles.  Over the course of time, the person left behind, Harold Sizemore, suffered from a medical condition and was unresponsive when help came to retrieve the ATVs.  The Belle Fire Department used different vehicles with 4-wheel drive capability to reach Sizemore.
A new study put out by a group called Transportation for America ranks West Virginia’s bridges as the eighth worst in the nation. The report cites the Federal Highway Administration’s claim that nearly 70,000 bridges nationwide are classified as structurally deficient.  The report states that one out of every six bridges in West Virginia are likely to be deteriorating “to some degree,” and 16.7 percent of bridges in the state are rated “structurally deficient” by government standards. Only 11.5 percent of bridges nationwide are rated structurally deficient.

A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin ranks the health of counties in the United States, and West Virginia’s rankings aren’t a big surprise.  The report was released Wednesday and it looked at more than two dozen indicators, such as smoking, income, physical environment and access to health care.  McDowell County with its ratio of deaths before age 75 was ranked as the least healthy and Pendleton County, without great access to hospitals, was ranked the healthiest. The top 10 healthiest counties, according to the study, are Pendleton, Tucker, Monongalia, Grant, Wirt, Jefferson, Putnam, Hampshire, Marshall and Berkeley.  The 10 unhealthiest counties, according to the study, are McDowell, Mingo, Wyoming, Logan, Boone, Lincoln, Mercer, Wayne, Gilmer and Summers.
The state Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a circuit court judge's ruling that allows a man with developmental disabilities, who had been institutionalized for a decade, to participate in an assisted living program that allows him to live in the community.  In a unanimous opinion, the justices ruled that Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman had sufficient evidence to conclude that Shawn Shumbera's deficiencies were caused by mental retardation. The state Department of Health and Human Resources had repeatedly denied Shumbera admission to the federally funded Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Program, saying that his deficiencies were due to his mental illness.  "Upon thorough review of the record, this Court does not find clear error in the circuit court's factual determinations regarding [Shumbera's] satisfaction of the specific eligibility requirements for the Waiver Program," the opinion states. "Although the DHHR contended that his deficits were caused primarily by his mental illness, the record does not reflect clear error in the circuit court's conclusion that the mental retardation was the source of [his] severe and chronic disabilities."
An Elkview mother has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $9,000 from the Pinch Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.  Sarah E. Harless, 33, was arrested last August. She admitted Monday to Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib that she took the money for her personal use. She was scheduled to go on trial this week.  Harless was elected vice president of the PTO in November 2009, but when treasurer Polly Stuart stepped down for personal reasons, Harless took over her duties.  According to the criminal complaint filed against her, Harless opened a fraudulent business account with Capitol One on behalf of the organization and obtained a credit card. She used that card to make $900 in unauthorized purchases.   In addition, police said Harless used credit cards issued from the group's Chase Bank and United Bank Accounts to make another $8,000 in personal purchases.

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