Mason doctor rebuffed in presenting case before grand jury

By Lawrence Smith | May 2, 2006

Dr. Danny Westmoreland

POINT PLEASANT - For a Mason County physician, the first day of May was more reminiscent of officials from the former Soviet Union touting their military supremacy than a celebration of American justice.

"I'm pissed," said Danny R. Westmoreland as he left the Mason County courthouse. "I've just been denied my civil rights."

Westmoreland was referring to being denied the opportunity to present a case before the Mason County grand jury that started a new term Monday. Coincidently, Monday was the annual observance of Law Day in which the state Supreme Court and various circuit, family and magistrate courts celebrate the American judicial system.

Westmoreland, 52, who operates Westmoreland Family Physicians in Mason, requested he be allowed the opportunity to present a case before the grand jury. Westmoreland hoped to get criminal charges he has pending against attorney Raymond G. Musgrave moving.

Westmoreland alleges that on April 15, 2004, Musgrave forged his signature on a settlement check for $15,000. The settlement, according to court records, stems from a dispute Westmoreland had with Gallipolis, Ohio, contractor Gary Barry for materials Barry stole from Westmoreland's office in 2000.

Barry, who owns Specialty Care Cleaning Service, was hired by Westmoreland in September 2000 to refurbish his office that sustained fire damage. A dispute over work to be done resulted in the two filing legal actions against the other in 2001.

Barry was indicted for grand larceny in 2003 and sentenced to one year unsupervised probation. A civil suit Barry filed against Westmoreland seeking damages in the amount of $79,000 was dismissed in 2004 when Barry agreed to pay Westmoreland $15,000.

Musgrave represented Wesmoreland in the lawsuit.

Soon after discovering the alleged forgery, Westmoreland says he addressed the matter with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Because of the severity of the matter, Westmoreland said, he was told that he needed to file criminal charges against Musgrave.

Westmoreland did just that in February 2005. Because he handed Westmoreland a copy of the notarized signature he alleges was forged at a previous hearing, Mason County Prosecutor Damon Morgan asked he be recused from the case.

Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Ginny Conley was appointed as a special prosecutor.

Westmoreland said had he been allowed to present a case Monday, it would not have been against Musgrave, but Myra Shull, 45, of Leon, who notarized the alleged forged signature. Shull is a target, Westmoreland said, because not only did she violate the law by approving the document, but also her actions are partly responsible for the financial loss he's suffered.

Musgrave declared bankruptcy in October 2005. This action,

Westmoreland said, makes it unclear if he will recoup any money.

Though he was told to arrive at the courthouse at 1 p.m. to make his presentation, Circuit Judge David J. Nibert until about 2:30 p.m did not summon Westmoreland into the courtroom. Instead of being allowed to present a case to the grand jury, Westmoreland discussed the case with Nibert.

During the 15-minute closed-door session, Westmoreland listened to Nibert conduct a status hearing with Conley via telephone.

According to Westmoreland, Conley said she was still undecided on whether to pursue the case further Conley's indecision, Westmoreland said, was her belief that Musgrave's actions did not "relate to criminal activity." Conley told Nibert her belief was based on the conversations she had with Westmoreland.

However, Westmoreland was unequivocal that he had only one conversation with Conley. Despite leaving repeated messages in the nearly the year she was appointed special prosecutor, Westmoreland said Conley has failed to return any of his calls.

"I just told the judge, 'She's lying to you'," Westmoreland said. "I haven't talked with the woman since November."

Nevertheless, Westmoreland said Nibert received an assurance from Conley she would present a case to the grand jury at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Because Conley did not return phone calls seeking a comment, it was not immediately clear if she would present a case against Musgrave, Shull or both.

Regardless, Westmoreland said he'll continue to make the 20-mile trek down river and press court officials to due their duty.

"I'm going to fight like Hell," Westmoreland said. "Even though I'm due a large sum of money, it's not about the money. It's about justice."

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