by Ron Gregory
Isn’t it ironic that an 18-year-old can be beaten into a permanent coma on a Williamson street with no legal punishment while a man can knock a female unconscious in the same town and be zipped away to jail?
While law enforcement and apologists like the Williamson Daily News, who would rather have a leg up on avoiding tickets e themselves than tell the truth about police antics, will say there are numerous differences between the two events. And there are. For one thing, the beating of Dawson Isom 17 months ago appears to be much more severe than the thumping Brittany Smith received. For another, the alleged perpetrators of Isom’s destruction were two white men while an African-American man is charged alone with beating Smith. Who said the law is color-blind?
Frankly, I don’t know enough of the details in the Smith case to be making much in the way of specific judgments. i DO know the whole thing serves to underscore how ridiculous the justice system can be. With an inept Prosecutor at the helm, Mingo Countians and Isom family members were told the severest penalty his attackers could receive was a $500 fine and six months’ probation — a misdemeanor.
Apologists for the former Team Mingo Prosecutor, Teresa Maynard, insisted state law hampered her ability to get a felony in the case. Fast forward to now. There’s a new honest, capable Prosecutor, Duke Jewell. Voters threw the bad apple Maynard out like soured dish water in May. Have the laws now changed so dramatically that hitting a woman into a coma that she is recovering from brings a much worse sentence than knocking an 18-year-old man into a PERMANENT coma. Mingo Countians aren’t stupid. Nobody is buying that bill of goods.
Don’t misunderstand. Under the facts presented, Smith is clearly a victim. Her alleged attacker, Jeremiah Jackson, deserves to be punished to the furthest extent of the law. But so do those who abused Dawson Isom.
A narrative in the charges brought by Williamson town police against Jackson, 37, say his attack left her with injuries that will require reconstructive surgery. Every long term reader will recall (and can check our archives) to see half of Isom’s head missing after the thugs attacked him. Reconstructive surgery? He’s had it over and over. He is more handsome today than he’s ever been, but his facial features have been rebuilt by medical science. Smith, apparently, will recover her normal features after surgery. Isom never will.
An interesting difference in the cases is that the city police investigated the Smith attack. Williamson State Police were allowed to take control of the Isom incident by city police and the sheriff. Do State Policemen not recognize felony circumstances when they see them? Smashing an 18-year-old man into Kingdom Come is apparently just a ho-hum offense for them. Too busy working on big-time cases, likely.
One advantage, if you can call it that, that the town cops had is that Smith was left well enough to talk to them. Isom never can and police dismiss videos of the incident as either unclear or mysteriously missing. Armed with details of what happened, the Williamson officers did the right thing: they charged Jackson with felony malicious wounding. Armed with their investigation, which Circuit Judge Miki Thompson managed to seal from view, State Police evidently thought killing a young man was a misdemeanor.
The beating disfigured Smith. It is safe to say his beating disfigured Isom.
It is safe to say, too, that the Williamson officers did not wait 17 months to ponder the case. They worked speedily and reached a rationale conclusion. Again, I have no idea if the defendant is guilty but the police did the correct thing and all that they could.
It is a sad commentary on Mingo County justice to watch Isom languish in a skilled nursing facility, never talking, never intentionally moving. It is made tragic by the fact that, as of today, there is still no real effort at justice for him. But, oh my, can a man with no political ties, no political power and no resources be prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law?
I rest my case …
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It’s no secret that I consider Mingo County Clerk Big Jim Hatfield one of the saints on earth. He is a great public servant, always casting an eye toward the good of the people. When Jim Hatfield acts, it is because he believes he can help his fellow man. That’s what always motivates him.
Thus, I and the paper would be endorsing the re-election of Hatfield if he had the highest-quality opponent against him. In the current case, he does not.
Redemption is a glorious thing to watch. And it truly CAN happen. On the other hand, I once listened as a Clay County Commissioner, Don Samples, laughingly told us he would sure be glad when the last Sunday before election was over. Asked why, Samples said, “because by that time I will have been baptized 22 times in different churches in the county.”
Now Ole Don may truly have been saved on some of those occasions and Anthony Blevins may well have overcome a penchant to distribute illicit drugs, turning instead to the Bible. I can’t and won’t judge that.
But I will say, in this case, a man’s entire body of work or life history should be carefully considered. Blevins pleaded guilty to drug distribution after being charged with illegally distributing pills and marijuana. Perhaps he has washed his hands of the habit. Maybe he is now a crusader for biblical purity. But the fact is he once pleaded guilty to doing it. That cannot be changed even if the leopard HAS changed his spots.
Add to all this the fact that Hatfield is a moral, upright, hard-working public servant and the choice is a no-brainer. Therefore, as would be expected, I and the Corridor Chronicle endorse Democrat Big Jim Hatfield for re-election.
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It should likewise surprise nobody that we endorse Jim Justice for Governor.
Would we be more comfortable if Justice simply whipped out some of his millions and paid all back taxes and liens? Of course we would. But we also recognize that good businessmen know how to run their operations. Taxes are often paid late by many. Tacked on to those late taxes are fees that more or less punish the scofflaw. There’s no evidence Justice has ever tried to use his influence to avoid paying his fair share.
Justice has a record of frankness and job creation. He turned the Greenbrier Resort around. He brought PGA golf and National Football League teams to West Virginia. His ideas for an agriculture revival and other job creation make used car salesman Bill Cole, his opponent, look like a … well, used car salesman.
Cole somehow daydreams that West Virginians are pleased with his leadership of the Republican State Senate. In the hinterlands, however, some of the staunchest Republicans are discussing how the prevailing wage can be returned. A hallmark of Cole and the tea party’s economic explosion plans, removing the prevailing wage has actually proven to COST state taxpayers.
Cole’s war on workers just does not play well. We do, however, respect the Senate President as a gentleman and a scholar. He is well-intentioned. But he is simply out of his league running against Justice.
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Among the chief duties of the Secretary of State is to preside over state elections. The other major responsibility is to make sure he or she knows where the Great Seal is at all times.
Incumbent Democrat Natalie Tennant has cost taxpayers at least $249,000 to reprint ballots and reprogram machines while she ran for higher office in 2012 and 2014. Among her more ludicrous “election opinions” was that a Mingo County candidate who did not submit the full filing fee by filing deadline could just “send in the rest” while acknowledging that state law required the “full fee” to be paid by the deadline.
Tennant also flaunted her own state election laws by campaigning too close to a polling place and, although the ethics panel could find nothing wrong with it, she toed the line of law-breaking the trinket law in a Putnam County presentation.
Her opponent, Republican Mac Warner, has been criticized by Tennant for going on a “jobs tour” around the state. What Tennant fails to recognize is that these events were well attended by business and potential employees and a number of new ideas were launched. Although Tennant apparently thinks keeping that seal located takes all of her time, in this time of economic crisis it is good to see a candidate like Warner reach out and try something new.
A breath of fresh air is desperately needed at the Statehouse and we believe Warner, whose military and personal experience overwhelmingly recommend him, is the choice for Secretary of State. On November 8, vote Mac Warner.
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Your comments, story ideas, gossip and defense of the Mingo County justice system are always welcome. Use the email listed or call my cell, 304-533-5185.