Monday, May 23, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...5-24-'11
- A first-degree murder trial got underway Monday for 20 year old Brandon Sherrod of Charleston who police say murdered 19 year old James Williams on November 3, 2009 when he shot through a kitchen window of a home on Grant Street. Police say Brandon Sherrod, known on the street as "Young Gunna," had an ongoing dispute with James "Baby Goon" Williams. During opening statements, defense lawyer Edward Bullman said Sherrod had no motive to kill Williams. Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said Williams, who was standing in the kitchen window of the home preparing dinner, never saw it coming as Sherrod pointed and aimed his weapon at him and fired four or five shots, one of the bullets stricking Williams in the chest, killing him almost instantly. Bullman didn't dispute that Sherrod and another man, Michael "White Mike" Serrano, were at the home that evening. But he said Sherrod and Williams were good friends. "Sherrod doesn't have a dog in this fight," Bullman said. Bullman said Serrano and several other men had traveled to West Virginia from New York City to celebrate the birthday of an incarcerated friend's baby, and they were upset with Williams for allegedly pouring beer into the baby's bottle, and were looking to retaliate. Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said, on the day of the shooting, Sherrod and Serrano crept to the back of Williams' house. Serrano was carrying a 9 mm handgun and is prepared to testify that the men were looking to shoot up the house to "send a message." Akers said Sherrod had recently bought a new .40-caliber gun and was looking for an opportunity to test the weapon. The original criminal complaint against Sherrod says that when he and Serrano got into their car and drove away, Sherrod said, "I dropped him with my first shot."
- Robert Butterworth, 19, of Charleston, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine when sentenced August 24th. Butterworth pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to aiding and abetting the distribution of Oxycodone, admitting he arranged the sale of 50 Oxycodone tablets to a confidential informant. He was arrested during the transaction.
- Fred Hammon was sentenced to five years in prison Monday morning after pleading guilty in April to wanton endangerment and having a gun on school property. Hammon and another man, Anthony Randolph were arrested in September following a fight in the parking lot at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes. Investigators say it ended with Hammon firing several shots. Randolph pleaded guilty to battery for hitting two people with brass knuckles. He will be sentenced June 1st.
- Police say Edward Dwayne Booker, 54, of St. Albans got into an argument with family members Saturday night and started waving a knife around. Capt. James Agee of the St. Albans Police Department says Booker chased his niece, Ashley Booker, 20, with the knife and had her by the hair when the girl's brother intervened and tried to take the knife. Edward Booker was wounded in the hand during the struggle. Edward Booker was charged with domestic battery and brandishing a weapon.
- MSHA announced Monday that a judge had upheld the agency's order against Patriot Coal Company’s Pine Ridge Coal Co. LLC. In addition, a fine against the company was tripled to $6,000. Officials say Pine Ridge Coal, which has had a history of roof falls, waited four days to notify MSHA of the Big Mountain Number 16 mine roof collapse and notified the agency only after the fall was discovered by an MSHA inspector. The company was found in violation of a law which requires operators to notify MSHA of any reportable roof falls within no more than 15 minutes once the operator knows, or should know, that an accident has occurred. The judge found that the roof fall impaired ventilation and blocked passage at the mine.
- West Virginia has a new mine rescue tool. The state Office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training teamed up with Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College to purchase a large chassis truck called Sat-Com 1, a mine disaster command center on wheels. The truck is going to have four gas analysis labs where the command center is set up. It will allow officials to do a gas analysis within 15 minutes. The radio communications will be for any of the mine rescue teams, the fire departments and the ambulance services. David Hurley, with with Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, will be the man behind the wheel if and when the vehicle gets called out to a mine rescue. Sat-Com 1 can determine if it's safe for rescue teams to enter a mine. Hurley says no matter where in the state Sat-Com 1 is parked, as long as you can see the sky, the truck will have crystal clear contact with anyone in the world. Sat-Com 1 is just a shell at the moment. It heads to Georgia in a couple weeks to be fully transformed into a rescue-ready command center and lab. Hurley says outfitting the vehicle will only take a couple weeks and then it will be on-call 24/7 out of the SWVCTC's Logan campus. The truck will be made available to other states if a mine disaster strikes.
- Swipe fees are what banks and card companies charge retailers when they use a credit card or debit card to buy something. Charleston business owners say swipe reforms are needed now, and they want the Federal Reserve to be able to limit how much is charged for each transaction. Business owners say, when 13% of swipe fee revenues go toward the operating costs of processing the transaction, that equates to nearly an 800% markup. Jay Cipoletti, co-owner of Blossom Dairy in Charleston, has been to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the swipe fee reforms. To address complaints, the Federal Reserve has proposed setting the limit at 12 cents per transaction, compared with the current average of 44 cents. That cap had been scheduled to take effect in July. Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito says she is not sure all bank costs, including those for anti-fraud measures, have been factored into the 12 cent swipe fee amount. Capito has proposed delaying the implementation of the limit for a year until a full review of the impact is completed.
- Kanawha County Schools Director of Child Nutrition Programs Gary Cochran says thousands of Kanawha County students owe nearly $2.3 million in lunch accounts, but there's little the school board can do to collect the money. Cochran expects that number to fall significantly before schools let out for the summer, but he says some students won't pay, leaving the school board with the bill. Cochran says you have to serve the children, and state law prohibits schools from denying students passage to the next grade if they fail to pay. The school board currently gives delinquent accounts to a collection agency, but Cochran says he thinks that policy could change. Cochran says students who would qualify for free or reduced lunch aren't aware of it, and he says taking the accounts out of collections and having school officials deal with the bills could solve the problem. The school board is also experiencing problems with school employees. Cochran says 46 employees' accounts are delinquent in the amount of $11,187.
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