PARKERSBURG – In two other cases in the last three years where she has served as special prosecutor, Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Ginny Conley closed one without seeking an indictment, but sought an indictment in another after she was presented with new evidence.
Conley is investigating allegations of forgery committed by Point Pleasant attorney Raymond G. Musgrave. Conley was appointed special prosecutor in February 2005 when Danny R. Westmoreland, filed criminal and civil charges against Musgrave alleging he forged a check for $15,000 due Westmoreland from a Gallipolis, Ohio contractor.
Westmoreland has criticized Conley's handling of the investigation, accusing her of doing little, if anything.
The reason she's yet to bring an indictment against Musgrave, Conley said, is that all the evidence she has is based on "speculation and conjecture," and indicting solely on that would not be "serving justice."
Greenbrier case yields no indictment
In March 2003, Conley was appointed special prosecutor to investigate allegations of rigged elections in Greenbrier County's May 2003 Democratic primary for county commission. According to The Associated Press, Chad Thacker, a farmer from Renick and candidate in the election, requested the probe.
Thacker alleged county officials failed to follow state guidelines in properly challenging ballots. Also, Thacker claimed officials erred in processing absentee ballots, issuing and accounting for ballots the day of the election and providing for ballot security.
On Oct. 29, 2003, Conley, a Republican, concluded her investigation finding no evidence of wrongdoing. In a brief statement to the Associated Press, Conley said, "[t]he election process in Greenbrier County is well-trained and prepared to handle elections for its citizens."
New evidence brings reconsideration in Hardy case
Almost two years later, Conley was appointed special prosecutor in a case involving animal cruelty in Hardy County. The Pilgrim's Pride slaughterhouse in Moorefield made national headlines in July 2004 when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released an undercover videotape showing workers mistreating live chickens.
The Moorefield facility provides chickens for the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant chain.
After her appointment on Jan. 12, 2005, Conley concluded her investigation later that month finding no evidence to warrant a criminal investigation. According to The Associated Press, Conley found the video disturbing, but believed the matter was better handled through regulatory channels.
However, pressure by PETA to the contrary, Conley later obtained evidence that changed her mind. Though she declined to say what the evidence was, Conley told The Associated Press "after I gained the additional information I received, I felt it at least warranted presentation to the citizens of Hardy County."
On Tuesday, June 7, 2005, the Associated Press reported Conley made a two-hour presentation to the Hardy County grand jury seeking felony animal cruelty indictments. However, the 16-member panel refused to return an indictment against the unidentified workers.
Despite calling the campaign they put on her as "harassment" and "intrusive," Conley received praise from PETA. Bruce Friedrich, PETA director for vegan campaigns, told the Associated Press that the abuse of chickens in the Moorefield facility was so "shocking and abhorrent to all kind people ... we applaud Ms. Conley for taking the case to the grand jury."
Conley declined to comment for this story.