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Preston prosecutor’s request sparks statewide spat

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Preston County Prosecuting Attorney Mel Snyder needed help.

Snyder had three pending murder cases last year. There also were dozens of drug crimes and sexual assault cases on the docket. A backlog of financial audits of local municipalities had piled up, awaiting Snyder’s review.

“We were pretty overwhelmed,” Snyder recalled.

Then, along came West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey with a proposition Snyder couldn’t refuse. Morrisey offered to send his assistant lawyers, free of charge, to Preston County, where they would prosecute crimes under Snyder’s supervision. Together, Morrisey said, they could root out corruption in the county, put criminals in jail.

County prosecutors across West Virginia, however, decided to fight Morrisey’s proposal. They said the attorney general’s plan would usurp their authority. They believe Morrisey’s prosecutorial-power push wouldn’t stop at the Preston County line.

Snyder never imagined his request for assistance on a handful of criminal cases would cause such a fuss. The dispute wound up in the Supreme Court’s chambers at the state Capitol last week.

“I asked for some help, then it turned into this, which is very unfortunate,” said Snyder, speaking for the first time publicly about the case.

It started the night of Nov. 14 in the Preston County Commission chambers, in Kingwood…

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