As reported in the Charleston Daily Mail this morning, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Irene Berger dismissed a case against a former Chesapeake youth pastor accused of sexually abusing a 16 year old girl.
The article reports that the defendant, Timothy C. Edmonds, was scheduled to go to trial this Monday. But Judge Berger ruled that the state had taken too long to bring an indictment against Edmonds, and dismissed the case. Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Drummond said the state would present charges again to a grand jury to get a superseding indictment.
In West Virginia, criminal cases can be dismissed due to pre-indictment delay, however, they are only dismissed “without prejudice,” which means that the case can go back before a grand jury. But, after an indictment is returned by a grand jury, the case must go to trial within one year of the indictment (i.e., the “three term rule”), or even within the first few months (i.e., in the same term of court) if the defendant invokes his or her right to a “speedy trial” (i.e., “the one term rule”). Dismissal on these grounds is more like a criminal statute of limitations, and is “with prejudice” and therefore permanent.
It seems most likely here that the dismissal was due to pre-indictment delay, though there must have been an indictment returned some time ago since the trial date was this-coming Monday. Apparently the guy was first arrested and charged via “Criminal Complaint” over 2 years ago. And what was happening in the meantime? There were civil cases filed, litigated and settled, involving a “large sum of money,” according to defense attorney John Sullivan.
If this guy is “guilty as sin” as the victim’s mother is vocally announcing to the newspapers, and if the state has overwhelming evidence against him, as they are suggesting they have, then why wait 2 years to bring him to trial? Is it proper for the Prosecuting Attorney to file criminal charges, then delay the case for the victim’s civil lawsuits, before finally bringing a criminal trial on the charges? I don’t think so, and apparently Judge Berger didn’t either. If your going to prosecute someone, then prosecute them. The prosecutor should not be coordinating the criminal case with the victim’s civil lawsuits.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney