CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County jury deliberated about two hours Wednesday before finding logger David Russell Bowen not guilty of allegations that he stole timber from Coonskin Park.
“I’m glad that justice has been done and I can go back to work and take care of my family,” Bowen said after the verdict was announced. “I never did feel that I did anything wrong.”
Bowen was charged with destruction of property, obtaining timber by false pretenses and willful damage to timber in connection with a six-week logging operation that went on in Coonskin in May and June of 2013. Bowen was called in to help clean up damage from the 2012 derecho that wasn’t covered by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Taking the witness stand in his own defense Wednesday, Bowen said Kanawha County Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson knew what Bowen was doing the entire time Bowen was in the park, and gave the logger permission to cut down 360 trees.
Bowen, 50, testified that he and Hutchinson met almost daily to talk about cleanup work Bowen was supposed to do in the park, and sometimes talked several times a day.
Parks officials had no written contract with Bowen to do the work, but Hutchinson testified that Bowen was authorized to cut down 31 trees near the road or threatening picnic shelters or other public areas at the park.
Bowen testified, though, that he believed he had free rein to cut down any tree in the park that had been damaged by the storm.
“We had a general understanding between each other what we were doing on a daily basis,” Bowen said.
Bowen said Hutchinson kept adding work to the list of things Hutchinson wanted done in the park as the work progressed. Bowen also said he took pictures of everything he did, although no photographs were presented in court.
State forestry officials suspended Bowen’s logging license after discovering he had cut down trees and built skid roads and landings in violation of his state timbering permit…