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Kanawha prosecutor’s status rests with judges

Charleston Daily Mail photo by Bob Wojcieszak Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants confers with counsel during the second day of a hearing to determine whether he should be removed from office. After testimony wrapped up Tuesday, the judges asked attorneys to submit proposed findings of fact by Oct. 3.
Charleston Daily Mail photo by Bob Wojcieszak
Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants confers with counsel during the second day of a hearing to determine whether he should be removed from office. After testimony wrapped up Tuesday, the judges asked attorneys to submit proposed findings of fact by Oct. 3.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The removal hearing for Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants wrapped up abruptly as his wife was called to testify but then sat back down almost as quickly after an objection that her statement would amount to hearsay.

So now a three-judge panel will decide whether Plants should be removed from office following evidence presented at a two-day hearing.

After seven witnesses took the stand on Monday, the hearing’s first day, there was just one witness Tuesday.

There were almost two. Plants’ attorney Jim Cagle briefly called Sarah Plants, Mark Plants’ current wife, to the stand, but she was dismissed just moments after being called. Cagle then rested his case.

So the bulk of Tuesday’s testimony was left to Lew Brewer, a former state Ethics Commission director who served as an expert witness in legal ethics.

Brewer, an attorney with Spilman Thomas & Battle, was called by Melissa Foster-Bird, the pro-bono attorney for the Kanawha County Commission. Brewer said he was making $250 an hour for his research and testimony.

Brewer contended that Plants violated the rules of professional conduct — mentioning conflict of interest, interference with attorney-client relationship, unfairly criticizing another public official and interfering with the administration of justice.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom barred Plants and his office from prosecuting certain domestic battery cases after Plants argued he had a constitutional right to whip his son. When Cagle questioned him, Brewer said Plants defending himself isn’t unethical.

But he said since Plants took that position, the special prosecutor will continue to deal with these cases. Brewer said even after Plants’ charges are resolved, the conflict will continue.

“My opinion is he will have to deal with those claims for a time to come — years…

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