Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Blankenship Sets Sights on Defeating "Let 'em Loose Larry" in 2008

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, in a speech today to the Energy Law Caucus at the WVU College of Law, confirmed that he would target West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry "Let 'em Loose Larry" Starcher for defeat in 2008 the same way he successfully targeted former Justice Warren McGraw last year.

Let 'em Loose Larry made an ass of himself last year during the Democratic primary election campaign when--not being a candidate himself--he attended a Supreme Court candidate forum featuring Justice McGraw and Greenbrier County Circuit Judge Jim Rowe (a former House Majority Leader). Starcher persistently heckled Rowe. McGraw edged Rowe in the primary but, as we all know, fared not so well in the general election.

From 2001 through 2004, McGraw, Starcher, and Justice Joe Albright formed a reliable liberal majority on the state Supreme Court that made West Virginia a notorious "judicial hellhole" where business interests could not receive fair treatment and where criminals could often find a sympathetic ear. Justices Robin Davis and Elliott "Spike" Maynard usually dissented in most cases. The election of Justice Brent Benjamin last year has done much to restore balance to the court, but more remains to be done.

Thanks to Blankenship's ad campaign last year, most West Virginians are now familiar with the case of Tony Arbaugh. Arbaugh, a convicted serial child molester from Pendleton County who received a very generous plea agreement in which he got probation instead of 15-35 years in prison per victim, violated almost every condition of his probation and the local circuit judge revoked probation and sentenced Arbaugh to prison. Arbaugh appealed, and by a 3-2 vote, the Starcher-McGraw-Albright triumvirate said Arbaugh must still be given another chance. Justices Davis and Maynard dissented, noting that the majority left Arbaugh enrolled in a program that would have eventually had Arbaugh employed as a janitor in a school --just the place where you want a serial child molester employed.

Larry Starcher didn't earn the nickname "Let 'em Loose Larry" just because of the Arbaugh case. A couple of months ago, the case of Raymond Richardson came to light after the State Police found a woman who had been stabbed to death in the back seat of Richardson's car during a traffic stop on I-79 near Charleston.

Richardson had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for a brutal kidnapping but in 2003, the state Supreme Court reduced that sentence to 10 years and in 2004, Richardson was freed thanks to good time credits (though he has demonstrated little good behavior outside the prison gates). In this case, Richardson kidnapped his girlfriend at gunpoint and forced her to walk naked to an abandoned house where--during a terrifying 14-hour ordeal--he urinated on her, burned her with lit cigarettes, doused her with gasoline, and threatened to set her in fire. Click here and here for more on this case.

I'm sure between now and 2008, we will--sadly--see more cases of convicts given leniency--remember that in both the Arbaugh and Richardson cases, no convictions were set aside, just the sentences--by Let 'em Loose Larry and his cohorts committing violent crimes that would have not been committed had the criminal remained in prison.