by Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — In a new twist to the continuing saga of the beating of Isom Dawson, a Mingo County Circuit Judge ordered a case expunged and the files sealed in a misdemeanor allegation.
Logan attorney Brian Abraham, representing Erik Rash, appeared before Circuit Judge Miki Thompson asking to have the matter expunged from court records.
Mingo’s lame-duck Prosecutor Teresa Maynard, who lost in the May primary election, appeared on behalf of the state.
The issue before the court last year involved the May 30 beating of 18-year-old Dawson Isom on Second Avenue in Williamson. Injuries from the incident have left Isom in what doctors describe as a permanent coma. He has been housed since the incident in hospitals and long-term nursing care facilities.
Despite a public outcry that those responsible for the beating should have been charged with felonies, Maynard claimed she was only able to convince a Mingo grand jury to indict Rash on a misdemeanor charge. In fact, as the case moved forward, Maynard recommended to the Isom family that they accept the misdemeanor conviction which would likely result in a $500 fine and six months probation.
When the Isom family refused to agree to that plea, Maynard recommended that the case be nollied, a legal term that allows a charge to be withdrawn with the possibility that it will later be filed as a potential felony. At the time, Maynard allegedly told Isom family members that, if Dawson were to pass away, more serious felony charges could be entered against the perpetrators.
From the beginning the case has brought forth allegations of personal favors in its handling. While the Isoms live near the West Virginia border in Kentucky, the Rashes are well-known Mingo business and civic leaders who have regularly been involved in political activities.
In fact, although Mingo Sheriff James Smith’s department has shown no inclination to investigate the incident, citing a preference to let State Police take care, the department held its annual December Holiday Party in a building owned by the Rash family. This raised a number of questions in the community about the fairness of any investigation into the incident.
While expunging the record, Thompson told a reporter later that the file “would be sealed. I don’t think there’s any way anyone can look at what’s in it.”
Contacted in his Charleston, Isom attorney Michael Clifford said he was not overly concerned at the court outcome Tuesday. “The prosecutor has now dismissed the case, expunged any record that there was a case; therefore there is apparently no ongoing investigation or case. I plan to send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the prosecutor immediately, demanding all the files and records of the investigation of this matter.”
Clifford, a former Kanawha County Prosecutor, has filed a civil suit against Erik and his father, Gary Rash. He said the first deposition in those cases is scheduled for Friday in Huntington.