Missing evidence plays role in controversial drug case
By Rachel Dove email@example.com
By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - A Mingo County drug case that has been the subject of controversy since an arrest was made a year ago is back in the spotlight after the special prosecutor appointed to the case filed a motion for dismissal of charges.
Boone County Prosecutor Keith Randolph filed a motion in Mingo County Circuit Court to have charges dismissed against a defendant based on “missing evidence” that, in his words, “only exacerbates the suspicion surrounding the case.”
George Ruben White, 65, of Delbarton, was taken into custody last year after being indicted by a Mingo County Grand Jury on multiple drug-related charges. The case was presented to the grand jury by the late Sheriff Eugene Crum and former Mingo County Drug Task Force Commander David Rockel, who later served as Mingo County Chief Field Deputy for a short time before being terminated after Sheriff James Smith was appointed.
White, who owned and operated a sign-making business in the county, and who did a lot of business with political candidates, pleaded guilty to drug charges last April and was sentenced to a state penitentiary. Evidence soon surfaced that White had been speaking with federal investigators shortly after his arrest, when he allegedly relayed information that he had sold Sheriff Crum prescription pills in the past, and said he believed he was targeted for arrest by Crum because the former sheriff owed him a $3,000 debt for campaign signs and materials he had purchased on credit during the 2012 election.
Court documents state that when the late sheriff became aware of the communication between the defendant and the federal authorities, he concocted a scheme, with the assistance of other public officials, to offer White a lighter sentence and a decreased fine if he would cease his talks with the FBI, fire his defense attorney (Charles West) and hire another. White agreed to the offer and entered a guilty plea to two counts rather than five, and a $10,000 fine, cut in half from the original amount.
Randolph stated in the motion that what was said to be an audio recording of an alleged drug buy with White by a confidential informant is inaudible, there is no video recording of any alleged transaction, and the identity of the informant also is unknown. Furthermore, there is said to be no credible documentation in the case that shows exactly what evidence was collected after a search warrant was executed at White’s business the morning of his arrest.
“If this information did exist, it has been lost, destroyed or removed from its proper place of storage,” Randolph states in the motion. “Even though evidence-related files from all the other defendants arrested in the same roundup as Mr. White were located in the evidence file cabinet, the file for Mr. White was not present.”
Randolph also pointed out in the motion that the warrant will not stand up in court because former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury, who resigned after being indicted by a federal grand jury and pleading guilty to conspiring to violate White’s constitutional rights, signed the warrant, and both officers who obtained the indictment are no longer serving in their capacity, with Crum being shot and killed in an unrelated incident in 2013 and Rockel being fired. Michael Sparks, who served as prosecutor at the time White’s case was heard has also resigned and entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of depriving White of his constitutional rights.
Last Oct. 31, White rehired West as his attorney. West then filed a motion to have the guilty plea entered by his client in this case thrown out.
White was released from prison Nov. 15 on bond, pending the outcome of Circuit Judge John Cummings’ decision. Cummings agreed to have the guilty plea dismissed, but let the charges stand. White was recharged and was arraigned, and the process began again. Since that time, Randolph entered the motion to dismiss the charges for reason of lack of credible evidence.
A hearing is set for 10 a.m. Monday in Mingo County Circuit Court to hear the judge’s ruling in the case.
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