by Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — Perhaps, as Mingo County officials have appeared to believe for more than a year, there was no brawl on Second Avenue in Williamson on May 30, 2015. Perhaps 18-year-old Dawson Isom is not really in a comatose state 15 months later in a Kentucky long-term nursing facility.
And maybe … just maybe … the earth is square.
The office of Charleston attorney Michael Clifford told the Corridor Chronicle Thursday that Mingo Prosecutor Teresa Maynard had responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by saying no records exist of an investigation into Isom’s beating at the hands of two men on the morning of May 30, 2015. Clifford’s office said the Charleston lawyer, representing Isom’s interests in the matter, sent the FOIA recently.
“She (Maynard) says there is no record of an investigation,” said a Clifford spokesperson. “Mike asked us (in his office), how did she present the case to a grand jury without a police investigation?”
Controversy has raged in Mingo since the incident because many have accused Maynard of being lax in pursuing the case. While video tapes exist showing two men beating and stomping Isom, Maynard assured Isom family members the toughest indictment she could obtain from a grand jury was a misdemeanor.
Maynard even urged Isom family members to accept the misdemeanor as the strongest charge that could be leveled at Erik Rash. She asked the family to agree to a $500 fine and a short probation period. Eventually, the family agreed for Maynard to “nolle” the charges, meaning she dropped the misdemeanor indictment. Family members say Maynard assured them that felony charges could be pursued later, if circumstances changed.
State Police from the Williamson Detachment had reported they were in charge of the investigation. Mingo Sheriff James Smith has repeatedly said his officers did not look at the situation, preferring to “let the state police take jurisdiction.” Nobody in the Williamson Police Department has ever acknowledged any involvement by that department in the case.
State Police told the Corridor Chronicle more than a year ago that they were, in fact, investigating the case. They insisted that they had never seen the video tapes showing the attack by the Rashes (the second man in the video is Erik Rash’s father, Gary). It was generally assumed that the State Police were Maynard’s “investigators” when she presented the case to the grand jury.
Since their interview with the Chronicle last year, police agencies have been virtually silent about the case. Smith, after refusing to take or return calls, finally admitted in an in-person interview several months ago that his department was not actually involved in any investigation of the case. He did say, however, that he often communicated with “family members” about Isom’s condition. To date, no Isom family member has said they ever talked with Smith about Dawson.
When Clifford, a former Kanawha County prosecutor, was obtained by the Isom family, he expressed public hope that the case could be “handled in a professional manner.” He has sued both Erik and Gary Rash for the attack on Isom. His spokesperson said Thursday the Charleston lawyer was “surprised to hear there was no investigation. I’m sure he will proceed accordingly.”
Meanwhile, Mingo voters rejected Maynard in the May Democrat primary, giving a resounding victory to lawyer Duke Jewell. Jewell will take office in January 2017.