by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — The West Virginia State Senate’s Confirmation Committee will consider Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s nominations to various boards and agencies at 9 a.m., Monday, in Room 451M (Finance Committee). Included is the Governor’s selection of former Mingo County Prosecutor Teresa Maynard to lead the state’s hearing examiners.
Maynard, defeated by a nearly two-to-one margin in the May primary by Duke Jewell, is a former law partner of disgraced ex-Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury. She served a controversial period as Mingo Prosecutor after replacing Michael Sparks, who himself went to prison with Thornsbury after a federal corruption investigation.
Labeled as a key member of the former Team Mingo political faction, which ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, called “corrupt,” Maynard was widely criticized during her tenure for failure to prosecute obvious crimes.
The highest profile of those cases involved 18-year-old Dawson Isom, beaten into a coma on Williamson’s Second Avenue on May 30, 2015. Isom remains in a coma, with 24-hour-a-day nursing care in a Kentucky skilled nursing facility.
Maynard initially looked at an investigation by the State Police as well as video tapes of the incident and led a Mingo grand jury to indict Erik Rash, one of the assailants, on a misdemeanor charge. Isom family members say Maynard attempted to convince them to accept a $500 fine and six months’ probation as a suitable sentence for Rash. Eventually, the family voiced their disagreement and the case was dismissed at Maynard’s request.
Maynard also allegedly told the family that the perpetrators could be indicted on felony charges later if circumstances changed.
On the legal front, all Maynard did after winning dismissal of the misdemeanor charge was to appear in the court of Judge Miki Thompson to agree with Rash attorney Brian Abraham that records of the misdemeanor charge should be expunged. Although it required Thompson to suggest it rather than Maynard or Abraham, records of the case were ordered sealed by the judge.
After Isom attorney, former Kanawha County Prosecutor Mike Clifford, sued Rash and his father, Gary, in civil court, Clifford filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for investigation records. Maynard responded that the records did not exist, apparently because they were under court seal.
After Jewell soundly defeated Maynard, Governor Tomblin appointed her last week, a day after she resigned as Prosecutor. Her term was to have ended December 31 as a result of the election. Jewell has since been appointed Prosecutor.
Those opposed to Maynard have proclaimed her appointment as a continuation of Tomblin’s long-time identification with the former Team Mingo. Various photographs and campaign advertisements show Tomblin as a part of that “slate.” They say the Governor is ignoring the wishes of Mingo voters as well as justice for Isom by appointing Maynard.
The full Senate will convene tomorrow at 11 a.m. Presumably, the committee will either vote to confirm or deny Maynard prior to that. In either case, the matter could be raised for reconsideration on the Senate floor.
The Chronicle will keep readers advised as to developments.