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Barbour County prosecutor under investigation

Inter-Mountain photo Leckta Poling
Inter-Mountain photo
Leckta Poling

PHILIPPI, W.Va. — A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate an allegation of domestic battery involving Barbour County Prosecuting Attorney Leckta Poling.

According to court documents, Poling received a letter from Capt. D.P. Reider and Sgt. J.A. Simmons of the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police requesting an “independent prosecutorial review of the investigation into an allegation of domestic battery by Leckta L. Poling.”

The request for appointment of a special prosector, which was signed by Poling, states, “Based upon Ms. Poling’s alleged involvement in this case, the Prosecutor’s Office is requesting to be recused from this matter.”

The document states the investigating officer is Sgt. P.B. Cork of the Elkins detachment, and “the investigation is now completed and the Captain and Detachment Commander have requested an independent review of the investigation by an outside prosecutorial authority.”

No further information about the investigation has been released, and no hearing dates have been set.

Poling responded to The Inter-Mountain’s request for comment by emailing the following statement Thursday: “This matter stems from a highly contested divorce/custody issue wherein allegations have been made against me for which I deny. This matter has been taken seriously and because I am the County’s elected Prosecuting Attorney, I cannot review the matter. Thus, a Special Prosecuting Attorney has been appointed.”

Reider and Simmons were not available for comment Thursday.

Circuit Judge Alan D. Moats ordered that Poling and her staff be disqualified from the case and had a copy of the order sent to the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute in Charleston. Philip Morrison, the executive director of the Institute, wrote Moats on Sept. 8 that his agency declined to appoint a special prosecutor, however, because Poling is a voting member of the Institute.

“We have appointed thousands of special prosecutors in my tenure as Executive Director alone and over 4,300 since the Institute’s inception but have only once before been asked to appoint in a matter where the person being investigated or prosecuted is a voting member of the Institute as is the case here,” Morrison wrote to Moats.

In the letter, Morrison said he contacted each of the Institute’s Executive Council members and “the majority response was to decline to appoint under these extremely rare circumstances and defer to your appointment authority under West Virginia Code.”

Moats then appointed Leslie Maze, of Wirt County, as the special prosecutor in the investigation. The order states Maze will not receive any fee or compensation but “shall be entitled to be paid for all reasonable and necessary travel, meal and lodging expenses necessary for the investigation and prosecution” of the case. These expenses will be paid by the Barbour County Commission, the order states.

This is not the first time Poling’s private life has been brought up in court proceedings. In June, a special prosecutor was requested in a double fatality case because of a personal relationship between Poling and a West Virginia State trooper – a relationship that Poling confirmed.

The defendant’s attorney said he had filed a motion asking for the recusal of Poling because of a personal relationship between her and the investigating officer in the accident.

When contacted by The Inter-Mountain in June, Poling would not disclose the type of relationship she had with the investigating officer; however, Poling confirmed that Cpl. S.P. Miller, of the Elkins detachment, was the officer in question.

In May 2013, Poling’s husband, William Francis “Frank” Poling Jr., was arrested for allegedly drugging her so he could look at her cellphone and email messages.

Police said Frank Poling allegedly crushed a tablet of the sedative Ambien and dissolved it in his wife’s drink, which she then consumed, on Sept. 2, 2012, according to the criminal complaint. Once his wife was asleep, Frank Poling allegedly went through her cellphone attempting to find out about her phone activity, messages and emails, the complaint states.

“During 2012, the defendant had developed a suspicion about the victim’s marital fidelity, and desired unfettered access to the victim’s cellphone and emails,” the complaint states.

In August 2013, Frank Poling pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of battery before offering a public apology to his estranged wife.

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