Saturday, October 29, 2005

Blankenship Attends Starcher Speech

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship--who on Wednesday declared he would bankroll a campaign in 2008 to defeat West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry "Let 'em Loose Larry" Starcher as he did in 2004 against former Justice Warren McGraw--attended a speech Starcher gave Friday in Charleston, the Charleston Gazette reports (use username & password "letmein" if required).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Update on Richardson Case

Several times in the last month, I have discussed the case of Raymond Richardson, a convicted kidnapper whose prison sentence was reduced by 2/3 by the state Supreme Court and is now facing trial on new charges and is a suspect in the murder of a woman the State Police found stabbed to death in the back seat of Richardson's car during a traffic stop on I-79 last month.

The 3-2 decision of the state Supreme Court that reduced Richardson's sentence in the kidnapping case from 30 years to 10 years has been widely criticized for both its leniency per se and that Richardson's mother worked at the court at the time. Richardson served just 5 years of that sentence due to good time credits that mandated that he be released after serving only half the new sentence for his good behavior while in prison.

Charleston TV station WCHS reports that Richardson will go to trial in December on charges of attempted murder, malicious wounding, and domestic battery in an unrelated case. Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Charnock (R) said, "Had the original sentence been upheld, [Richardson] would still be in prison."

The good news, if there can be any in this case, is that Richardson is facing the same circuit judge who gave the maximum sentence for the 1999 case and Warren McGraw is no longer on the state Supreme court to form a majority with Joe Albright and "Let 'em Loose Larry" Starcher.

Editorial Cartoons

From the October 28, 2005 Morgantown Dominion-Post

From the October 27, 2005 Morgantown Dominion-Post

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Who Bush Should Nominate

Now that Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court, President Bush has an opportunity to nominate a well-qualified candidate with strong conservative judicial credentials. I believe Miss Miers has done the President, the party, and the country a huge favor by seeing the immense difficulty that would have surrounded the confirmation process had she not withdrawn.

Judge Janice Rogers BrownNow that we have a vacancy to fill, the choice is obvious. The President's supporters overwhelmingly agree he should nominate Judge Janice Rogers Brown to the Supreme Court. She is a well-established, battle-tested judicial conservative who has spent almost a decade on the bench--mostly on the California Supreme Court, to which she was reelected with 76% of the vote.

Judge Karen WilliamsIf not Judge Brown, the next best choices for the nomination would be Judge Karen Williams of the 4th Circuit, Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit, Judge Michael Luttig of the 4th Circuit, Judge Priscilla Owen of the 5th Circuit, Judge Samuel Alito of the 3rd Circuit, Judge Emilio Garza of the 5th Circuit, and Judge Michael McConnell of the 10th Circuit.

The confirmation of a successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gives us a rare opportunity to shift the direction of the federal judiciary. This fight is about returning the courts to a position of interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning and respecting the Article V amendment process and prerogatives of the democratically elected branches of government by not using creative legal theories to impose justices' personal policy preferences upon the country under the guise of interpreting the Constitution.

Robb Switches from R to D

South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb, a former GOP state committee member and presidential elector, has switched to the Democratic Party. Last year, Robb threatened to be a "faithless elector" and not vote for President Bush in the Electoral College, although Robb did eventually cast his vote correctly. Robb had long been a liberal Republican and made news earlier this year with his anti-Iraq war advocacy.

Ireland to Pass on Senate Race, Catlett to Enter Race

West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland will announce this morning on Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval that she will not run for the US Senate next year against Senator Byrd (who caught a few ZZZs on the Senate floor Tuesday). This will open the field for the entry of former WVU basketball coach Gale Catlett, who has been heavily recruited in recent weeks by the White House after Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito demurred on the race.

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.

Name That Party

A politician in Philadelphia has been indicted. It is federal, so it counts. The AP story does not mention the defendant's party affiliation in the lead. It is a 9-paragraph story.

  • For 10 points, name the defendant's party affiliation.
  • For 20 bonus points, name the paragraph in which the AP finally tells readers the defendant is a Democrat.

Cross posted at Don Surber, Basil's Blog and Florida Masochist.

Byrd Catches a few ZZZs on the Senate Floor

Click here to see the video. This is fresh footage from yesterday. Of course, who could blame him? Having to sit there listening to Harry Reid would put me asleep too.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported today:

“Senate Sightings ... Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) sleeping in his chair on the Senate floor at approximately 3:35 p.m. Tuesday, apparently not excited by whatever Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was talking about. Byrd's nap ended when Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) began talking.”

Originally found at the West Virginians for a Republican Majority blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Evacuee Sex Offender Gets off With Misdemeanor

A 24-year-old Hurricane Katrina Evacuee who was charged with third-degree sexual assault for having sex with a 13-year old girl at the evacuee camp at Camp Dawson in Preston County has been let off with a plea to a misdemeanor offense of third-degree sexual abuse, reports the Morgantown Dominion-Post:

New Orleans evacuee pleads no contest

BY KATHY PLUM The Dominion Post

KINGWOOD -- A New Orleans evacuee in prison for 44 days pleaded no contest to a lesser charge Monday.

Damien Batiste, 24, pleaded no contest before Magistrate Diane Thomas to third-degree sexual abuse, a misdemeanor. Thomas gave him credit for time served and ordered him to pay $153.50 in court costs.

Batiste, who was one of the New Orleans evacuees brought to Camp Dawson, Preston County, was charged Sept. 9 with third-degree sexual assault, a felony, in connection with the assault of another evacuee, a 13-year-old girl. Batiste was on parole from a Louisiana prison on drug-related charges.

His brother, Tyrone Batiste, 28, was charged with intimidating a witness, a misdemeanor, pleaded guilty and has left the county.

The victim and witnesses also have left Camp Dawson.

"It would be a difficult case to try," Preston Assistant Prosecutor James E. Shay Jr. said Monday. "But in reality, the crime of sexual abuse fits what he did do."

Damien Batiste has been in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail since his arrest. He was to be released Monday after the hearing.

Preston County has been billed $48.50 per day that he was at the jail. The county plans to submit the $2,182 bill to FEMA for reimbursement, as part of the expenses of operating Operation Safe Haven at Camp Dawson.

"We are attempting to recoup those costs from the federal agency that's paying the bill, but I don't personally hold much hope," Preston Sheriff Ron Crites said.

Batiste will not remain in the area, Shay said.

"As a part of this, because of the victim's age, he has to register as a sex offender for life," he said. "I got word he was going back to Texas."

Call this what you will, but don't call this justice. Plea-bargaining a parolee charged with a felony sex offense like this to a misdemeanor is not justice, especially when it appears there are witnesses to the crime in adyoungon to the yong victim. If the defendant has been prosecuted & convicted of third-degree sexual assault (61-8B-5), together with the statuenhancementce ehnancement for a second-time felon (61-11-18), he could have received a 10-year prison sentence (which would thus reseligibilityole eligiblity after 2 1/2 years and mandatory release for good behavior after as little as 5 years [28-5-27]).

And of course, this story is just another sad reminder that West Virginia's sex offender laws are still too weak. We need to pass Jessica'a Law--which requires a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for any person at least 18 years of age who sexually abuses or sexually assaults a victim younger than 13 years of age and life without parole for a second such offense--and enact the other reforms to our sex offense laws I have proposed that go beyond Jessica's Law.

Wheeling Police Officer's Badge Doubles as a "Get Out of Jail Free" Card in DUI Case

Prosecutors in Ohio County have let a Wheeling police officer arrested for DUI after he drove his personal car off the road and had a BAC of 0.224, almost three times the legal limit, plead guilty to reckless driving instead. In every state, a BAC of 0.08 is legally drunk and most states--but not West Virginia--have aggravated DUI statutes requiring enhanced punishment when a drunk driver has a BAC of 0.15-0.20 or above. However, in this case, a badge doubled as a get out of jail free card.

The AP wire reports:

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) -- A Wheeling police officer accused of drunken driving has pleaded guilty to reckless driving, a lesser charge.

Philip Thomas Redford, 32, of Wheeling entered his plea in Ohio County Magistrate Court on Monday. He originally was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence.

Magistrate Patty Murphy ordered Redford to pay a $500 fine and unspecified court costs.

"I fully acknowledge my role in this unfortunate event where I conducted myself in a less than exemplary fashion,'' Redford said in a statement. "I regret sincerely the time and trouble that I have cost the West Virginia State Police, Wheeling Police Department and my family through my actions. I am grateful to have this matter finally closed.''

Redford was off-duty when the car he was driving ran off the road and hit an embankment on Feb. 5.

His blood-alcohol level at the time was 0.224, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08, according to medical records from Ohio Valley Medical Center obtained by the State Police.

Information from: The Intelligencer,

Monday, October 24, 2005

No Change in State Laws Needed to Make Concealed Handgun Permit Reciprocity Agreements with Most States

Earlier today, I discussed West Virginia's poor efforts to reach reciprocity agreements with other states to honor West Virginia concealed handgun permits and vice versa. One would think a pro-gun state like West Virginia would be leading the pack in allowing residents who have concealed carry permits to carry here and allow West Virginians to carry in other states.

West Virginia has concealed handgun permit reciprocity agreements with just two states--Kentucky and Virginia--and both were made more than five years ago. My own examination of the reciprocity laws of most other states shows that--although I think some changes should be made to West Virginia's laws to make a concealed handgun permit a better value--no changes in our laws are required to enter into reciprocity agreements with most states.

The states with which West Virginia could negotiate reciprocity agreements if our governor so desired include:

  1. Alabama
  2. *Alaska
  3. *Arizona
  4. Colorado
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. *Idaho
  9. *Indiana
  10. Louisiana (which reports WV as being nonresponsive to its invitation to discuss reciprocity)
  11. *Michigan
  12. Mississippi
  13. *Missouri
  14. *Montana
  15. New Hampshire
  16. North Carolina
  17. North Dakota
  18. Ohio
  19. *Oklahoma
  20. Pennsylvania
  21. *South Dakota
  22. *Tennessee
  23. Texas
  24. *Utah
  25. Wyoming

States denoted with * unilaterally recognize West Virginia concealed handgun permits but would need a reciprocity agreement with West Virginia for their permits to be honored in West Virginia. Arkansas is still unknown; I will revise this post later once I determine whether Arkansas law would allow a reciprocity agreement with West Virginia.

The only states whose laws permit reciprocity agreements but would not permit such an agreement with West Virginia are South Carolina and Washington. Twenty-five states, listed above, could enter into reciprocity agreements with West Virginia but have not been approached--indeed, the Louisiana State Police claim West Virginia has been totally nonresponsive to its attempts to seek an agreement.

  • South Carolina law limits reciprocity agreements to states whose permitting requirements are at least as stringent as theirs and which require an equally intensive handgun proficiency course. Most states do not qualify for reciprocity with South Carolina and will have to wait for South Carolina to change its law. The only states that have full reciprocity with South Carolina are Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.
  • Washington's law denies recognition to all other states' permits unless "the licensing state requires mandatory fingerprint-based background checks of criminal and mental health history for all persons who apply for a concealed pistol license." The only states that have full reciprocity with Washington are Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Note: As with my earlier post today, the information here has not been conclusively verified. Local law enforcement authorities should be consulted on current legal requirements.

Why Does West Virginia Have Concealed Handgun Reciprocity Agreements with Only Two States?

This was the question that immediately came to mind a few weeks ago when I was contacted by a friend from Delaware with a question about West Virginia's gun laws and did some quick research.

West Virginia is one of 38 states that generally allow most law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns (and other deadly weapons in some states) without undue restriction. In fact, we were one of the leaders in liberalizing concealed carry laws when our "shall issue" concealed weapon permit law was passed in 1989. Upon passing a criminal background check and completing a basic handgun safety course, any adult resident of West Virginia shall be issued a concealed handgun license by the county sheriff.

In the late 1990s, as most states joined the "shall issue" concealed carry permit bandwagon, West Virginia and most other "shall issue" states enacted laws to permit the entry of "reciprocity" agreements with other states to recognize each other's licenses. 31 of the 34 "shall issue" permit states plus Alaska (which no longer requires a concealed carry permit but issues them so Alaskans may carry in other states or be exempt from the NICS check when purchasing a gun at a gun dealer) and Delaware (which is a restrictive issue state) have reciprocity agreement laws. Over a dozen states have varying forms of unilateral recognition laws, whereby all or almost all other states' licenses re recognized without a reciprocity requirement. In 2000, West Virginia entered into reciprocity agreements with Kentucky and Virginia. That's where we stopped.

Right to Carry Map, Courtesy NRA

All the information for this post comes from either the NRA's Guide To Interstate Right-To-Carry Reciprocity And Recognition and On the NRA site, clicking on a state will show both the other states from which that state honors licenses and the other states that honor that state's licenses. shows, for each state, the states with which that state has a reciprocity agreement plus the states that otherwise recognize that state's licenses.

I researched the laws of West Virginia and several other states--most notably those whose licenses are most widely recognized in other states--and found few differences in the laws that would justify differences in recognition. South Carolina refuses recognition to states that do not require a very extensive handgun training class rather than the more basic classes required in West Virginia and most states. Washington refuses recognition to states that do not conduct fingerprint-based criminal and mental health background checks on all applicants. In 2000, we attempted to remove one of the obstacles to wider recognition of West Virginia concealed carry permits by raising the minimum age for a permit to 21 and limiting permits to handguns only; since then, no additional reciprocity agreements have been made.

West Virginia

For the most part, it appears that a lack of desire by former Governor Bob Wise and--so far--Governor Joe Manchin is responsible for the inability of West Virginians to carry concealed in most other states and the inability of anyone from another state who does not hold a Kentucky or Virginia license to legally carry concealed in West Virginia. Ten other states unilaterally recognize West Virginia permits and two (Alaska & Vermont) do not require a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

I was particularly astonished to find that recent entrants into the concealed handgun club--Michigan (July 1, 2001) and Ohio (April 2004) have each made dozens of reciprocity agreements despite their very recent enactment of concealed handgun permit laws. Michigan--which unilaterally recognizes all other states' permits--has reciprocity agreements with 22 states and an additional 7 states honor Michigan permits; West Virginia is the only state that recognizes any out-of-state permits that does not recognize a Michigan permit.


Ohio--whose concealed handgun permit law went into effect just 18 months ago--has already entered into reciprocity agreements with 16 states and receives unilateral recognition from an additional 3 states.


Other states that have vigorously pursued reciprocity agreements with other states include Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas. You may click here and then click on a state to see more information about that state, including the corresponding map.

Governor Manchin--who has been a friend of gun owners over the years and received the NRA's highly coveted endorsement last year--should immediately begin contacting the 29 states with which we do not have a reciprocity agreement and which do have reciprocity laws. The Legislature should do its part by making the following changes to our concealed handgun permit laws next year:

  1. Unilaterally honor all state permits that meet certain minimum standards (i.e., expiration date, requirement of a background check, and permit suspension or revocation procedures.
  2. Require a state official to periodically inquire of states with which we do not have a reciprocity agreement as to whether one may be negotiated or whether the other state will honor West Virginia concealed carry permits otherwise.
  3. Require licensees' photos on concealed handgun permits (currently, a licensee must carry a separate photo ID). This change would qualify a concealed carry permit as proper identification for a person seeking to purchase a gun at a gun dealer and would also be a valid form of ID if West Virginia ever enacted a voter photo ID law.
  4. Require applicants to be fingerprinted as part of the application process and destroy the fingerprints after the background check is complete.
  5. Specifically require licensees to be eligible to possess firearms under federal law; most disqualified categories are already identified in our current background check but it is not exhaustive. This would bring the added benefit of exempting West Virginia concealed handgun permit holders from the NICS check required when purchasing guns through gun dealers--a benefit licensees in 16 other states already have.

West Virginians deserve a greater value for their concealed handgun permits. The time for action is now.

Disclaimer: Please consult local authorities for the most current information on applicable laws. The information provided here may not be up to date.