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Berkeley candidate facing drug charge still in race

Journal photo Orem
Journal photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Berkeley County Republican sheriff candidate John Orem, along with his counsel, has filed a request and motion for a speedy trial in the wake of his arrest for misdemeanor heroin possession.

Although today is the final day for Orem to remove himself from the sheriff’s race, the document states that he still intends to run for the seat in November’s election. Orem also RSVP’d Monday for a candidate forum being put on by The Journal and WEPM 1340-AM, slated for Oct. 12.

Nearly two weeks ago, Orem was arrested after police responded to his Inwood home and found him unresponsive, according to the criminal complaint.

The report stated that police were told Orem was administered Narcan before their arrival the morning of Aug. 2, and also the night before when responders were dispatched for a potential overdose call. Orem has released multiple statements detailing that Narcan was used because of an adverse reaction to a prescription opioid, as he was “suffering flu-like symptoms.”

According to the police report, drug paraphernalia was also found at the residence in the bathroom where Orem was lying on the floor.

Among the items were a shoelace lying on the bathroom countertop, a plastic baggie located in the toilet and a metal spoon bearing burn marks and containing a white substance, which later field-tested positively for heroin.

Orem’s request, however, states that there was a lack of investigation during the response and arrest.

“The arrest in the instant case has all the earmarks of a politically motivated and coordinated effort to unconstitutionally influence a legislature function by inflaming the public,” the request reads. “Upon information and belief the mere arrest has produced sensationalistic and prejudicial news stories that are having an impact on (Orem’s) candidacy for sheriff.”

The request was filed Friday, and it moves for a jury trial to be set within 30 days.

According to the request, no interviews have been conducted with family members about the items found on the scene.

“Had an investigation been conducted, it would have been readily apparent how drug paraphernalia could have been in a messy guest bathroom cabinet,” reads the request. “The ‘string’ found in the bathroom by (the) cat box under (the) sink … is simply a shoelace the Orem’s minor son uses as a cat toy.”

The request also addresses that a syringe was not found at Orem’s residence.

“A subsequent full search of the house pursuant to a search warrant obtained on questionable nexus grounds also confirmed that no syringes were in the Orem household. A syringe is the ‘smoking gun’ for a heroin addict who uses heroin and they are usually kept in large supply by intravenous drug users,” according to the request. “They are typically found at the scene of heroin overdoses. There has been no investigation or factual explanation for how an alleged heroin user could inject heroin cooked in a spoon without a syringe.”

Since receiving the charge, the circuit court has also suspended the ability of Orem, a bail bondsman, to write bonds.

Kevin Mills and Shawn McDermott of Mills McDermott Criminal Law Center in Martinsburg are representing Orem, and they assert in the motion that Orem may have been framed.

“Upon information and belief, undersigned counsel asserts that the charge has been filed against (Orem) as possible retaliation for his campaign platform of bringing change to an old, corrupt and ineffective system,” the request states. “The charge against Mr. Orem is merely an allegation. Yet, even though Mr. Orem is presumed innocent, such an allegation has been leveraged and is having the effect of crushing the electoral campaign of Mr. Orem.”

A trial date has still not been set for the case.

Staff writer Emily Daniels can be reached at 304-263-8931 ext. 132 or www.twitter.com/emilykdaniels.

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