Charges dropped against White, prosecutor cites missing evidence as reason

By Rachel Dove rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

February 25, 2014

WILLIAMSON - A controversial felony drug case that has been the center of media attention for the past year has more than likely seen it’s last day in court, as charges against George Ruben White were dismissed on Monday without prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought up again.

Boone County Prosecutor Keith Randolph, who was appointed to represent the state in the case against White, had filed a motion in Mingo County Circuit Court to have charges against White dismissed, basing his request on “missing evidence” that, in his own words, “only exacerbates the suspicion surrounding the case.”

White, who is 65 years of age and resides at Delbarton, was arrested in February of 2013 after being indicted by the Mingo County Grand Jury on multiple drug charges. The indictment occurred after the late Sheriff Eugene Crum and former Drug Task Force Commander David Rockel presented testimony that a confidential informant (CI) had made a drug buy from White that was allegedly recorded.

Randolph spoke with the Williamson Daily News about the alleged recording of the drug buy being inaudible, explaining that the pre-interview and post-interview between the officer and the CI were clear and easy to understand, but stated you could not distinguish voices during the actual buy, that the people were talking in a hushed tone and only mumbling could be heard. Furthermore, documentation and files vital to the prosecution were missing in this case that noted exactly what evidence was collected during the search of the business belonging to White the morning of his arrest.

“If this information did exist it has been lost, destroyed or removed from it’s proper place of storage,” stated Randolph. “Even though evidence-related files from all the other defendants arrested in the same roundup as White were located in the evidence file cabinet, the file for Mr. White was not present.”

While speaking with Randolph, the question was raised as to whether the credibility of defense witnesses in this case also played a part in his decision to file a motion for dismissal. The prosecutor replied that, “yes, that fact bared quite a bit of weight” and influenced his decision to request that the charges be thrown out.

“The current Sheriff of Mingo County and the current Williamson Police Chief assisted me with trying to located the missing evidence but we were not successful. This indictment and arrest occurred while both departments were under different leadership,” said Randolph.

During the court hearing that was heard before the Honorable John Cummings on Monday, the interim circuit judge said that in his years on the bench, he had received many motions to dismiss charges against a defendant. That he had simply made the decision by the stroke of a pen and did not conduct a hearing in the matter. However; he felt strongly that with all the media attention that had been brought to the case against White, he felt that a public hearing was in order.

“I felt this case needs to be as transparent as possible,” stated the judge.

“According to past indictments, you were charged with a crime but from evidence presented, you did not get a fair trial from the get-go. It appears to me that the judge that presided over this case had a hidden agenda and was part of a conspiracy against you.”

“I assure you Mr. White that the justice system does work and even though you were denied your rights in this matter before, it may have been better that it worked out this way to uncover the truth. I have no reluctance whatsoever in dismissing the charges against you and to iterate that our legal system demands a fair trial for everyone.”

The judge directed White’s defense attorneys Charles West and David Barney to file a motion seeking the return of the $10,000 in property and currency that White forfeited as part of his original plea agreement, as well as reimbursement for the cost of home confinement fees, and urged them to do so at their earliest convenience.

Although White declined comment after being told he was a free man, Barney stated that his client was very relieved to put this behind him, saying he had been living a nightmare for the past year.

West commented that the hearing on Monday proves that “the system does work even though it has it’s problems,” and he was extremely pleased to see his client receive the justice he deserved.

“This case stunk to the high heavens from the very first,” stated West. ‘But justice prevailed, the system worked and did not fail him.”

Former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury pled guilty to a federal charge of conspiring to violate White’s constitutional rights and former Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks has entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of depriving the defendant of his constitutional rights. Both men are awaiting sentencing.