Monday, November 14, 2005

Democrats to Seek Ouster of GOP Prosecuting Attorney in Kanawha County

Shortly after his election last year as Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney, Bill Charnock was placed under an investigation that could be more accurately branded a deep sea fishing expedition relating to his conduct in office as President of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute.

Yesterday, the first public report on the investigation was released and the long knives are out. The investigation, conducted by the Legislative Auditor (who is an official of the Legislature) has made wide-ranging allegations of improperly using state resources for political purposes. It is clear that Charnock's political adversaries will soon be preparing a petition for impeachment.

Before I go any further, several important principles must be recited. A person is entitled to the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven in a court of law. No charges have been filed and no grand jury investigation is known to be ongoing. This is only a report from an investigator and Charnock has not had an opportunity to air his case, nor should he until formal accusations are lodged and disposition thereof is commenced in an appropriate forum.

I do not know whether the facts alleged are true, whether they are in context, or whether any specific crime has occurred. However, the AP and the Charleston Gazette have already written highly prejudicial stories against Mr. Charnock, so I will offer a potential rebuttal and explanation for the intensity of the attacks he is now facing.

This is nothing more than a partisan witch hunt. In West Virginia, the Attorney General has no criminal prosecution powers and all state crimes are prosecuted by county prosecutors. As in Texas--home of the infamous Ronnie Earle--the prosecuting attorney of the county of the state capital has broad investigatory and prosecution powers relative to crimes involving the state government and state officials. Charnock is the first Republican Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney in years and the Democrats are scared.

The Ruling Party fears Charnock because he is a staunch Republican who takes his job as prosecutor seriously and his office is empowered to investigate and prosecute crimes and misconduct on a much broader basis than federal prosecutors. False campaign finance reports or ethics disclosures only rise to a federal offense if they are submitted by mail; otherwise, any prosecution rests only with the Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney. Any corruption occurring within the Legislature or otherwise involving state officials that might be small potatoes to the federal government could be a little-known county prosecutor's ticket to high name ID and favorability ratings statewide if he sent corrupt politicians to prison on state offenses--something that has not happened in recent history. If Charnock were to be removed from office, he would surely be replaced by a Democrat appointed by the Democratic majority Kanawha County Commission.

Keep an open mind as you hear the Ruling Party and their minions in the press attempt to lynch Charnock and remember their hidden motive for wanting his ouster regardless of what the facts may be. If I am wrong and there have been serious offenses committed, I hope the rule of law prevails and Charnock's treatment is not affected by politics. However, these allegations must not go without a corresponding examination of the underlying political motives.