WILLIAMSON - A hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday has been rescheduled for 9:30 a.m.Dec. 13,, due to accurate paperwork not being filed by the defense as well as the prosecution.
Ron Rumora, counsel for the defendant, George Ruben White, 65, of Delbarton, who has been serving a prison sentence since he entered guilty pleas earlier this year on drug-related charges, filed a petition to throw out the admission of guilt based on the fact that the judge and prosecutor in the case have been charged in federal court with depriving White of his constitutional rights.
White had been represented by attorney Charles “Butch” West after his arrest, but later fired West and hired Ron Rumora in an effort to “get a lighter sentence,” according to information released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
According to federal court documents, White and West had begun speaking with federal investigators shortly after the defendant was arrested, alleging that White had sold drugs to former Sheriff Eugene Crum while he was serving in the magistrate’s position and further claimed that Crum owed him $3,000 for campaign signs and other materials that he had purchased during the 2012 campaign.
The documents state that, when Crum became aware of what was happening, he enlisted the assistance of former Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden, Prosecutor C. Michael Sparks and White’s brother to develop a scheme that would prevent future communication between the defendant and the FBI.
White allegedly was told that if he fired Wes,t hired an attorney favored by former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and ceased his conversations with the feds, he would get a lighter sentence. White did what he was told.
In a turn of events today that shocked most of those attending the hearing and certainly raised some eyebrows, Rumora was seated in the courtroom. However, he was not at the defendant’s table with White. Instead, West and Attorney David Varney identified themselves as his counsel.
Circuit Judge John Cummings informed White’s legal counsel that Rumora was still his attorney of record, and said that a substitution of counsel request would need to be filed on their behalf with the court. Also, Cummings relayed to Special Prosecutor Keith Randolph of Boone County that he was required to file an answer to the defendant’s petition. The judge gave the prosecutor until Dec. 9 to file the paperwork and rescheduled the hearing for Dec. 13.
Cummings stated that, based on his review of the facts in the case, he felt the petition had merit and would be heard.
West and Varney spoke with members of the media following the court proceedings, and offered the following remarks about the case.
“There are a lot of issues that must be carefully looked at and considered in this case,” said Varney. “These are serious issues dealing with the 6th Amendment.”
When asked when White retained him as counsel, Varney said he had spoken with West about it in the past but was contacted yesterday and hired.
West was questioned as to how he had, once again become the legal counsel for White and said the defendant was under duress when he terminated their contract.
“Mr. White’s switch was not voluntary,” stated West. “I was not the attorney of favor with the judge and the prosecutor, and they knew that I am not an attorney that chooses to fall on my sword in court, but rather one that will thoroughly investigate the case. They didn’t want me on the case and pressured him to get rid of me.”
“The judge, prosecutor and others deprived my client of his rights to keep me as his attorney, as well as trying to keep me from making a living in this profession,” West said. “Mr. White likes me as his attorney; that’s why he hired me to begin with.”
White and Varney both remarked that they were very pleased with the remarks made by Judge Cummings concerning the 6th Amendment violations and said they feel they are now heading in the right direction.
The scenario the defense lawyers are hoping takes place would be that the guilty plea is thrown out and the case is dismissed. It is possible that the judge could rule to set aside the conviction and leave it up to the prosecutor whether to retry the case.
White will remain free on bond, pending the hearing on Dec. 13.