CHARLESTON – The Kanawha County Commission has appointed Charles "Chuck" Miller as county prosecutor.
Miller will finish the unexpired term of Mark Plants, who was removed from office last month by a three-judge panel because of misconduct, malfeasance, neglect of duties and violation of court orders.
On Monday, the commission interviewed the five Republicans who applied for the job. Those were Miller, former assistant prosecutor Don Morris, Charleston attorney Mark Browning and West Virginia Attorney General lawyers Marty Wright and Chris Dodrill.
Miller was chosen by a 2-1 vote. He said he wants Morris to be his top assistant.
Just last week, Miller was appointed the interim prosecutor. He took over the office Friday, Plants' last official day after he opted to not appeal the panel’s ruling.
Miller was the chief of staff for the prosecutor’s office, and he previously worked as a federal prosecutor.
The three-judge panel hearing the Plants’ removal testimony – Preston Circuit Judge Lawrance Miller, Berkeley Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes and Doddridge Circuit Judge Timothy Sweeney – ruled that Plants’ actions constituted wrongful conduct in admittedly hitting one of his children with a belt, leaving bruises.
“The three-judge court is not making a finding that Mark Plants did or did not intentionally cause the physical harm by proof beyond reasonable doubt,” the final order states. “That finding is better suited for a jury, if and when Mark Plants is tried on his criminal charges. …
“The three-judge court is not ruling that corporal punishment of a child is impermissible as a matter of law, and this question is not before us. … The three-judge court finds striking a child with an object with enough force to cause bruising that can be seen at least four days later is unreasonable and therefore wrongful.”
To justify removing Plants from office, the judges said this wrongful conduct must “affect, interrupt or interfere with the performance of official duty.”
“This three-judge court finds that Mark Plants’ wrongful conduct has substantially interfered with the performance of his official duties, and has further caused him to neglect his duties as prosecuting attorney.”
The judges say Plants has a conflict of interest in prosecuting domestic violence allegations because of his actions, noting “abuse and neglect cases are among the highest priorities of a circuit court’s docket.”
“Not only is it a significant portion of his work, it is perhaps the most important portion of a prosecutor’s job,” the panel writes.
Earlier this month, Plants said he won’t appeal the ruling and, instead, is opening his own law practice.
“My family and I have been attacked for almost a year,” Plants said in the statement. “I love being a prosecutor, but refuse to allow my family to be subjected to this any longer.
“I’m excited to begin the next chapter in my life. I’ll be opening my own law practice where I can fight for the rights of others who have been treated unjustly.”