by Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — A ray of truth’s light may finally emerge in the Dawson Isom beating case.
Isom’s civil case attorney said today that after a hearing in Mingo County Circuit Court, “I hope to see all the facts in this case.”
Charleston lawyer Mike Clifford presented a motion to compel production of police reports and evidence in the case where his 18-year-old client was left in a permanent coma nearly two years ago. At that time and in subsequent months, Isom family members and friends claim former Prosecutor Teresa Maynard did not properly prosecute the case. Friends of the alleged assailants have said the incident was the result of “self-defense.”
The beating took place on Williamson’s Second Avenue on May 30, 2015. Maynard eventually secured a misdemeanor battery charge against one of the alleged attackers, Erik Rash. However, when Isom family members learned that Maynard only expected a minimal fine and probation if Rash was found guilty or pleaded to the charge, Maynard asked for the charge to be dismissed.
Maynard was soundly defeated in the May 2016 primary election by Jonathan “Duke” Jewell, with her handling of the Isom case becoming a key issue. Jewell has not officially commented on the matter since taking office.
Shortly before Maynard resigned the prosecutor post to take a job in state government, Rash defense attorney Brian Abraham, now chief counsel to Governor Jim Justice, moved to seal the files in the case. Maynard did not object and Circuit Judge Miki Thompson granted the motion to expunge the misdemeanor from the record. This, effectively, sealed all files in the case.
Clifford had said he thought Jewell, as prosecutor, might file to open the file. When he did not, Clifford filed the motion to compel. In effect, it would either reopen the file for scrutiny or Rash could agree to produce records in the case.
Represented Thursday by Huntington lawyer Steven Nord, the insurance carrier for Rash said they had no objection to providing Clifford with the case file, including police investigation reports.
Judge Thompson said she was not certain or “could not remember” what the filed contained. Since Nord did not object, she said, she felt she could order the files unsealed.
Nord then pointed out that he did not object, so long as Clifford agreed to a protective order in the case. Clifford said he had no problem with that.
The judge asked both attorneys when they felt the matter might be ready for trial. Nord responded, “by the end of the year” and Clifford nodded agreement.
Thompson said she would “check applicable law” to be sure her order was correct before issuing it.
Afterward, Clifford said, “I’m pleased we’re going to finally see the file.”