Contractor Prosecuted in Raleigh County – and thats a good thing…

From the Register-Herald today:

Matthew Peelish, a Raleigh County contractor, pled guilty to 3 counts of felony obtaining goods by false pretenses for taking money from people and not completing the work, and for obtaining materials from local merchants on an account and refusing to subsequently pay. The Court held him to task and sentenced him from 2 to 20 years.

This is extremely common here in Monroe and Greenbrier county, yet no one is ever prosecuted for it. Everyday people are prosecuted for some ridiculous things, and in these situations, you have real victims that lost real money. Yet 9 times out of 10, they have to resort to a civil action, which leaves them trying to collect a judgment years into the future, or worse, from a trustee in bankruptcy. The problem often cited by prosecutors is that it is difficult to show the requisite intent (intent not to pay at the time the goods are taken or money accepted) to prove the charges. But then again, since when do judges or juries hold prosecutors to their burden of proof anyways?

It really hurts a local business when a deadbeat contractor runs up an account of 5, 6 or 7 thousand dollars and then skips out on the bill. It should be prosecuted. Bravo to the Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney.

You can read the full article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

Black Market Gas in Southern West Virginia

Psst… Hey buddy, want to buy some gas?

Apparently the future of crime in southern West Virginia lies with black market gas. According to an article in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph today, law enforcement is preparing for thieves stealing tanker trucks and stealing large quantities of gas from gas stations.

I can picture it now… Gas thieves will be the new robin hoods, stealing from the gas companies and selling to the poor at a substantially-reduced rate. You might play up the robin hood theory to the jury. It could work.

You can read the full article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

What’s With the Thefts of Catalytic Converters in West Virginia?

You know times are getting tough when society’s derelicts stop burglarizing homes and robbing gas stations and begin stealing catalytic converters off of cars and electrocuting themselves trying to get copper wire off power lines.

Actually, from the incessant loud vehicles driving throughout some ares of West Virginia, I wasn’t aware that there were that many cars around that still had catalytic converters. It must be a right-of-passage for many high school sophomores or juniors to buy a 90’s model Mustang or F-150, and take off the muffler and catalytic converter, to therefore make it excruciatingly annoying to everyone else around them. Then, once they are off, they are pretty much off for good.

In the Register-Herald today, there was a story that police have arrested five members of a catalytic converter theft ring. Their names were Billy Jack Smith, 23, of Midway, Billy Price, 25, of Coal City, Nicholas Dale Bragg, 21, of Beckley, and Jeremy Allen Sanger, 25, of Hilltop.

They were charged with grand larceny, which is basically stealing something worth more than $1,000. What is the value of a catalytic converter? Are they basing the value of the catalytic converters on their black market value? Their individual prices if bought as new? The cost for buying a new one and installing it on the victim’s vehicle? That may be a jury issue. If either of the defendants can convince the jury that, although they stole the converters, the value was under $1,000, they would only be convicted of misdemeanors.

Read the full article here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

Plea Rejected by Raleigh County Circuit Judge

From the Register-Herald today:

Plea rejected for woman accused of robbery

Michelle James
Register-Herald Reporter
A plea hearing went awry Wednesday when the defendant admitted to Raleigh County Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick she was only taking the plea because she wanted to go home, not because she thought she had done anything wrong.

Bridget Rene Sizemore, 33, of Beckley, was expected to plead guilty to first-degree robbery in connection with a March 31, 2006, incident during which she allegedly broke into a Bolt residence and attempted to steal a woman’s purse at knifepoint.

At the time of the alleged crime, Sizemore was on probation for a forgery conviction. By entering a guilty plea Tuesday, Sizemore would have been sentenced to probation for the robbery and her probation for forgery would have been revoked with the underlying sentence of one to 10 years reinstated.

Sizemore, who said she was under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident, did admit to grabbing the victim’s purse but said she was not trying to rob her.

Kirkpatrick told Sizemore he could not accept the plea and told her he believed “it would be best to just set the matter for trial.”

Sizemore was returned to jail and a trial date will be set.

Note: Defendants are forced to take plea agreements all the time despite their claim of innocence. The issue isn’t always is the person “guilty” or “innocent.” There are books and books full of technical crimes. A person could be charged with two or three different crimes for doing the same thing, just depending on what kind of mood the prosecutor was in. One crime could bring a sentence of up to one year in jail… the other crime could carry ten to twenty years in prison – mandatory. Thus, in this woman’s situation, she may not have actually “robbed” the lady, but the State may have a statement from her whereby the police officers carefully got her to unknowingly admit to each and every element of robbery, thus ensuring her conviction of “robbery” rather than simple larceny, which would be a misdemeanor. The point is, that nobody cares about her motives for pleading to a lesser unless the defendant states something in open court that could bring problems if the case ever crossed the bench of an appellate court. – John H. Bryan, West Virginia criminal defense attorney.

South Charleston Gas Prices .010 per Gallon?

From the Charleston Gazette today:

Police: Clerk cut gas price for family

By Davin White
Staff writer
South Charleston police say gas prices dropped to .001 dollars a gallon for one clerk’s friends and family.

On Sunday morning, South Charleston Police arrested clerk Madeline Jordan, 25, of Nitro and five of her family members and friends after she allegedly sold them gas at a rate of 10 gallons per penny.

The owner of the Spring Hill BP alerted police Thursday that he was losing money at an alarming rate and feared he would have to file for bankruptcy protection, according to South Charleston Patrolman C.A. Crowder.

Police did not wish to release the owner’s name.

The store is on U.S. 60 at the west end of town near Jefferson, Crowder said.

The owner estimated that he’s lost more than $40,000 in about six months, Crowder said. Receipts led investigators to monitor Jordan’s Sunday work shift. She starts at 7 a.m. and could change the rate customers were charged for gas, Crowder said.

Crowder said they found five vehicles Sunday morning hauling between four and seven gasoline containers each, with about 25 in all. Each of the gas containers could hold three or more gallons of gas, he said. Some of the drivers arrived by 6:45 a.m. and started pumping gas before the store even opened at 7 a.m., Crowder said.

Police charged Jordan, Mary Catherine Jordan, 58; Clifford Parker, 47; Vonnie Oldham, 38; Glennis Fields, 39; and John Jordan III, 27, each with fraudulent schemes, a felony.

Crowder said Madeline Jordan is not related to Fields. She may be related to Parker, he said.

The six suspects are from the Nitro, Dunbar and Leon areas.

Madeline Jordan may also face additional charges, Crowder said.

All six were sent to the South Central Regional Jail on Sunday, Crowder said.

Note: all involved here are probably judgment-proof civilly. However, as far as restitution out of a criminal case, the more the merrier. In West Virginia, the monetary threshold between misdemeanors and felonies is $1,000.00. Certainly the clerk is above that threshold. But, it would be difficult to figure out who bought what gas as far as the records are concerned. That being said, it would be difficult to pin the felony against any of the individuals absent some sort of conspiracy-type charge. But then again, they could confess to stealing more than $1,000.00 worth of gas and they wouldn’t have to worry about the records. – John H. Bryan, Attorney at Law.