Supreme Court refuses to hear prosecutor election challenge
Marlinton, W.Va. – The West Virginia Supreme Court voted 3-2 to not consider a petition to nullify the results of the November election for Pocahontas County Prosecuting Attorney. The vote indicates the majority’s opinion that the petition is without merit for the court’s review.
Prosecuting Attorney Eugene Simons took office on January 1 and is busy settling into his new job. Simmons says the Supreme Court made the right decision.
“The Court obviously decided, which we thought was fairly right, because we had researched this thing from the beginning and never, ever attempted to do anything wrong and followed the law, insofar as the County Clerk and also the Secretary of State,” he said. “And I talked to both of those people. I even talked to the head of the elections at the Secretary of State’s office and we followed according to what they said the law was – which is what the court said it was now. And I was glad to get it over with, because it’s always a hanging type thing. You never know exactly what they might decide, but you always hope they go with the law. And in this case, I think they did. They felt that the procedure we used was supposed to be done that way.”
Simmons discusses his priorities as prosecutor.
“Well, we want to get rid of some of the cases,” he said. “Some cases have been laying there for a couple years. I’m really concerned about the kids not going to school. That’s one of the things we’re going to push on. We’re really going to work hard on the drug cases and the abuse cases because I think that affects people more than anything else and that’s where we’re going to be. We’ll do the criminal cases. We’ll try the cases. And our position on this is – and we’re going to do this for some period of time – we’re going to try these cases straight up. Basically, what they taught you in law school is to plea bargain the weak ones and try the good ones, but we’re going to try them all.”
Simmons explains why he’s focusing on drug prosecutions.
“Because the drug cases, I think, are the bottom of all these things,” he said. “Anytime we have an abuse case, anytime we have a criminal case, if you look in the background you’ll see drugs involved. And I think if you can wipe out the drugs, I think you’re going to cut down considerably on your abuse cases and also your delinquencies and going to school. And I think that’s the base and that where we’re going at.”
The new prosecutor says things have changed a lot since his first experience as prosecutor in 1964.
“Then interesting thing is – when I was a prosecuted first, I think back in ’64, the job paid $200 a month,” he said. “Now it pays considerably more than that, as you are well aware, and we had a private practice at that time. Not many cases went to trial at that time because the public defenders were paid $25 for a misdemeanor and $50 for a felony and nobody went to the Supreme Court – nobody went to trial.
“Things are different now. We have better defense lawyers. We have the ability to get all the evidence. Back in the old days, it was kind of, you didn’t give the defense attorney anything. He wasn’t entitled to anything. Now, he gets it all. So, now when you try a case, it’s basically the right against the wrong or the best case wins and it used to be it was not that way. So, I’m happy with it now. I look forward to trying cases.”
The county also has a new Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Simmons brought Robert Martin onboard, who replaces Ted White as the Assistant Prosecutor.