WILLIAMSON - After approximately three and a half years has passed, a former employee of the Mingo County Circuit Clerk’s Office was served with an arrest warrant and arraigned before Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler on Monday.
Brenda Hunt, 46, of Delbarton, appeared voluntarily in magistrate court with her attorney and was arraigned on a single count of petit larceny by embezzlement, stemming from a 2009 investigation of missing funds in the circuit clerk’s office, where she was employed. A special prosecutor was assigned to oversee the allegations and evidence, but no charges had been filed until a letter from the Mingo County Commission addressing the matter was recently sent to McDowell County Prosecuting Attorney, Scott Bell, who is handling the case.
A copy of a plea agreement was submitted to magistrate court last week from Bell and Michael Clifford, the defendant’s attorney, listing in detail what the charge would be, the amount of restitution and punishment. The plea reads as follows, in its entirety:
1. The defendant will enter a “Kennedy vs. Frazier” guilty plea to a single misdemeanor charge of petit larceny by embezzlement. This offense is punishable upon conviction by confinement in the regional jail for up to one year or a fine of up to $2,500.00, or by both such fine and imprisonment. The defendant will waive her right to assert the defense that the statute of limitations would bar prosecution for a misdemeanor offense that occurred more than one year ago.
2. The parties will ask the court to accept their plea agreement under Rule 11(e)(1)(C) of the West Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure which requires the Court to approve the parties agreement that probation is the appropriate disposition of the case.
3. The State will then recommend that the Court impose a 30-day jail sentence, that the execution of all said sentence be suspended, and that the Court shall place the defendant on unsupervised probation for one year. The State will further recommend that the Court impose no fine.
4. The defendant agrees to pay restitution in the amount of $900 to the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Mingo County as directed by this Court during the period of probation.
5. The defendant further agree that she will not institute any claim, action or complaint of any nature in order to seek to compel Circuit Clerk Grant Preece to reinstate her to her former employment as deputy clerk of the Circuit Court of Mingo County or to seek “back pay” or other damages in connection with the termination of said employment and will submit a written resignation for the position.
6. After the defendant’s guilty plea is accepted, the State of West Virginia shall be forever barred from instituting and other criminal prosecution of the defendant for any alleged acts or offenses that may have occurred during the defendant’s employment as a deputy circuit clerk.
7. By signing this agreement, the defendant acknowledges that she has read it in its entirety, that she fully understands all of the agreement, and that she enters into the agreement knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily without any promises or conditions other than those that are expressly stated in the preceding paragraphs.
The agreement contains the date of March 11, 2009.
During the court proceedings that took place Monday before Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler, the question was raised as to whether the special prosecutor had signed documentation from Circuit Clerk Grant Preece or from members of the County Commission (victims in this crime) that offered proof they were in agreement with the plea, as it was written and presented. Prosecutor Bell stated that this was the original plea that everyone connected with the case had agreed with in 2009. Toler relayed that one or all of the victims needed to provide the court with a written statement or by verbal testimony before he would accept the plea.
The case was recessed for lunch while the defense attorney consulted with the victims, and was reconvened at 1 p.m. After speaking with the circuit clerk and with members of the county commission, a plea agreement could not be reached and the case was continued until a later date.
Hunt was issued a bail in the amount of $1,000 and was released from custody after meeting this obligation.