by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — It could be your son. It could be mine. Through the Grace of God, it isn’t.
But 18-year-old Dawson Isom WAS somebody’s son. Until May 30, 2015, he was a bright, pleasant, happy youngster actively involved in athletics, school and the community. Ask those who ARE his parents and grandparents: Dawson was an ideal son. He was never in serious trouble at school or anywhere else. Father David Isom, mother Crystal McCoy and step-mother Melissa Isom could not have asked for better. His younger sisters worshipped the ground he walked on. Hollie Isom and her brother Dawson were seemingly permanently attached to each other.
If the only injustices former Mingo Prosecutor Teresa Maynard had stood for involved Isom, it would be enough for the members of the State Senate to reject her nomination to head the division of administrative law judges. Her absolute refusal to prosecute the Isom case to the full extent of the law disqualifies her from any public position, in our opinion. The voters of Mingo certainly agreed in May when they defeated her by a two-to-one margin.
Dawson Isom was unreasonably attacked and beaten on Williamson’s Second Avenue that May morning. Witnesses and at least two videos show what happened. Maynard stood before State Senators Monday and said she had “conflicting statements” from witnesses before what until now was considered a secret grand jury deliberation. She intimated that she either could draw no conclusions from the videos or really hadn’t seen them. She made it sound as though law enforcement could not sort out who was guilty and who was not in the altercation.
In a word: preposterous. We have seen the videos; hundreds of others have seen the videos; they leave no doubt concerning the aggressors. Maynard either chose to ignore the proof before her or she is hopelessly incompetent. Neither is a real qualification to promote her to a big state job.
Maynard told members of the Senate committee with a straight face that it is that one case, and it alone, that has upset people in Mingo County. She said the Isom case, and it alone, spurred dozens of Mingo Countians to write letters and emails to the senators opposing her nomination. She was “proud of her record” as Prosecutor, she proclaimed. It doesn’t take much to make her proud.
We could parade a day’s worth of Mingo Countians before the committee to tell of crimes Maynard refused to prosecute in their communities — and she knows it. Saying that the Isom case, and it alone, is responsible for her losing an election by two-to-one is ridiculous although it would be justifiable if that was true. Federal officials filed numerous motions and reports to Federal court detailing the crimes committed by former Team Mingo politicians prior to Maynard assuming the office of her disgraced predecessor, Michael Sparks. When she left office two years later, the number of those people indicted by her still stood at zero.
Maynard IS Team Mingo. While we will accept the concept from many that Team Mingo no longer exists, it definitely exists in the mind and actions of Maynard. Look at her record. She told the committee that she was at one time in a “partnership with another lawyer.” She failed to mention her long history with Thornsbury, now in a federal penal institution. She bragged that she served 10 years total in the Prosecutor’s office as an assistant and as the top official. She didn’t mention that much of that tenure was spent working with Sparks to conceal the corruption of Team Mingo.
And corrupt Team Mingo was, in the words of former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who led the prosecution of the guilty parties on federal charges.
While the case could be made, we will not lay the blood of Dawson Isom at the feet of part-time legislators whose knowledge of subject matter is, logically, limited. But Governor Tomblin knows what he is doing in appointing Maynard. There are but two possibilities: the Governor is so oblivious to facts that he cannot see what he is doing by appointing Maynard or he simply doesn’t care that a young man lies comatose 17 months after being beaten on a public street in the state he has sworn to keep safe. Governor, in either case, we are grossly disappointed.
Senators could still redeem themselves. Rather than listening and believing Maynard’s slanted view of the facts, they could take the time to read her record briefly. There’s nothing to be “proud” of right down to one of her last acts: helping defense attorneys seal the investigation into the Isom case. All of which may have little effect on Maynard, who chose to discuss what are supposed to be “secret” grand jury deliberations with the Senate committee. In itself, that breach should have been enough to bring a no vote from the committee.
Tuesday at 11 a.m. the Senate will have Maynard’s appointment, along with others, before them. Senators can right the Governor’s wrong. Just say no.