Sunday, November 20, 2005

Democrats Engage in Political Witch Hunt Against Charnock, Want to Prevent him from Being an Effective Prosecutor

Democrats and members of the press (largely redundant) in Charleston have now entered their second week of a full-court press to tarnish & discredit Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Charnock. This entire campaign focuses on a series of allegations of ethics & election law violations that have always been ignored or excused in the past when alleged against Democrats.

More importantly, however, is that powerful interests are afraid Charnock might be too effective as county prosecutor if left alone. I have previously touched on some of the areas members of the Ruling Party are afraid Charnock might scrutinize and Gary Abernathy addresses some of these points as well.

If this investigation was part of a broad-based effort to detect and prosecute all ethics & election law violations without regard to political affiliation, it would be one thing. However, this investigation has focused on one man, a Republican, and ignores Democrats who have already been identified as committing acts that would appear to be just as serious. Yet, we hear nothing of efforts to prosecute Joe Manchin for improperly printing his name on voter registration forms when he was Secretary of State, state Treasurer John Perdue sending campaign press releases from his office fax machine, or the millions of dollars of state funds Darrell McGraw has used in occasional "consumer protection outreach" TV & radio ads that seem to always run most frequently right before elections in which a family member is on the ballot.

I content that Bill Charnock is being targeted by this campaign merely because the Ruling Party fears what he might do as Kanawha County prosecutor if he were left to do his job. One of the items mentioned in today's column by Gary Abernathy is that Charnock created a Political corruption Division in his office, which triggered a flood of hard drive replacements and mass document shreddings at the State Capitol earlier this year.

Charnock, the first Republican Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney in decades, has broad jurisdiction over ethics & election law crimes similar to what Ronnie Earle has in Texas. Politicians who may have avoided federal scrutiny of their campaign finance reports and personal financial disclosures by filing in person rather than using the mail could find scrutiny that was absent during the years of Mike Clifford, Bill Forbes, and other Democratic predecessors. The mass lobbyist & PAC shakedown the Democratic Senate leadership perpetrated in 2002 that resulted in former Senator Oshel Craigo getting almost 100% of the lobbyist & PAC contributions in his unsuccessful reelection campaign against Lisa Smith and Smith getting virtually nothing might come to light. Other political corruption crimes that may have been regarded as too insignificant by federal prosecutors might get a fresh look by an ambitious young county prosecutor who might want to generate statewide name ID. Most frightening for crooked politicians who have committed felonies in Kanawha County is this: in West Virginia, very, very few felonies carry a statute of limitations.

It's also possible that Democrats just don't want to receive the embarrassment that will come from the prosecution of individuals like Raymond Richardson who got light sentences from the former McGraw Majority on the state Supreme Court who have returned to the streets and resumed criminal careers. Going down to misdemeanors and Magistrate Court, Charnock has implemented a "no drop" policy for DUI and domestic violence cases that has long prevailed in many counties. Under the domestic violence no-drop policy, the police are trained to collect enough evidence in domestic violence cases to support a conviction and the case is prosecuted in court even if the victim runs back to her abuser and refuses to testify--as often happens in the cases of a victim financially dependent upon her abuser. In the DUI department, Charnock put forth a maximum effort against former record Powerball winner Jack Whittaker and has taken a tough stances in many other cases.

Bill Charnock is just the kind of prosecuting attorney Kanawha County needs: someone who will aggressively prosecute both corrupt politicians and the street criminals who are responsible for Charleston having a per capita murder rate 4 times New York City's.