Couple uses knowledge of law to live rent-free

By Lawrence Smith | Sep 28, 2006

CHARLESTON – Despite denying she influenced the state Supreme Court to reduce her son's 2001 kidnapping and torture conviction, court records show a Dunbar woman and her husband may have used their knowledge of the legal system to avoid paying rent for nearly two years.

Twice in the course of three years, Roblene C. "Robin" Beatty, 45, and her husband, Rafael, 54, were involved in landlord-tenet disputes. Once as a plaintiff and the other as a defendant, court records show the Beattys attempted to forestall eviction from the homes in Cross Lanes and Charleston in which they entered into a lease-purchase agreement.

In the latter instance, Rafael invoked the name of his then-employer, the West Virginia Attorney General's Office, in the course of discovery. Though it later proved to no avail, Beatty -– acting as his own attorney –- warned the opposing counsel the AG's office was aiding in his defense.

Last week, The Record reported that twice after he was released from prison in 2004 on kidnapping and wanton endangerment charges, Raymond A. Richardson was arrested for domestic violence-related charges. According to court records, Richardson was sentenced to30 years for kidnapping, the maximum allowed by state law, and five years for wanton endangerment stemming from his arrest in 1999 for interrogating his then-girlfriend, Angela Franks for 14-hours about her alleged sexual relations with another man.

Richardson appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court maintaining his sentence was too harsh. In November 2003, the Court agreed, and ordered the sentence for kidnapping be reduced from 30 years to 10 years to run concurrently with the wanton endangerment charge.
Richardson's mother, Roblene C. "Robin" Beatty is a secretary for the Court, and has worked there since 1997. She has repeatedly denied her employment with the Court influenced the justice's decision to reduce her son's sentence.

Beattys initiate legal action

In 2000, the Beattys initiated a lawsuit against Kenneth and Jean Dolan of Madison after the Dolans exercised their right to foreclose on a deed of trust on which the Beatty's signed on their home at 5013 Kilarney Lane in Cross Lanes. According to court records, the Dolan's executed a foreclosure sale on July 31, 2000 after the Beatty's "failure to remit monthly payments from Aug. 15, 1999 to July 31, 2000" and "failure to pay property taxes, also required by the deed of trust."

According to court records, it was at this address where Richardson was placed on home confinement as a condition of his bail in the Franks case.

In an attempt to halt the foreclosure, the Beattys filed a lis pendens with the Kanawha County Clerk's Office. A lis pendens is a notice that places potential purchasers on notice that a legitimate dispute exists as to who possesses a right to the title of land.

According to court records, the Beatty's case began to fall apart on Feb. 19, 2001 when their attorney, Christopher J. Winton of the Charleston law firm of Ray, Winton and Kelley, withdrew from the case. In his motion to withdraw, Winton said "certain disputes have arisen between counsel, and plaintiffs in the handling of this case including the payment of counsel's fees."

The case came to a conclusion on Aug. 23, 2001, when Kanawha County Circuit Judge James C. Stucky ruled in favor of the Dolans. According to court records, a judgment of $5,366 was entered in their favor.

Court records also show that Robin did not attend the bench trial.
In November 2001, the Beatty's filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. According to their petition, the Beatty's listed $14,500 in assets, and $37,049.65 in liabilities.

Among the liabilities the Beattys listed were the judgment won by the Dolans, and $1,482.53 in unpaid attorney's fees to Winton. Both were voided when the Beatty's bankruptcy was discharged on March 4, 2002.

Recipients of legal action

While the case against the Dolans was still pending, the Beattys entered into a new lease-purchase agreement for a home on 808 North Hills Drive in Charleston. According to court records, the Beattys signed the lease on March 1, 2001, with Wardens Development Company of Dunbar.

In 2003, Wardens, through its attorney John A. Singleton, initiated foreclosure proceedings after the Beatty's were nine months arrears in paying rent. The Beattys, court records show, owed Wardens $9,138.40, including a cumulative of $60 for two rent checks returned for non-sufficient funds, as of Aug. 3, 2003.

On Aug. 4, 2003, Judge Louis H. "Duke" Bloom in a bench trial ruled in favor of Wardens. According to court records, Bloom gave the Beattys until Aug. 8 to pay Wardens half of the judgment, and also ordered they surrender their home on that day. Again, records show Robin did not attend the bench trial.

In an attempt to forestall the suit, Rafael in a letter dated June 16, 2003, said he and Robin would not be attending an upcoming deposition as they were not "compelled" to do so.

"Be advised that his action is being represented and monitored by the West Virginia State Attorney General's Office with whom I'm employed," Beatty said in his latter.

In a follow-up letter, Singleton reminded Beatty that if he failed to show for the deposition he would file a motion to compel, which he did on June 23, 2003. Also, he said he spoke with Letha Brown of the attorney general's office, who confirmed with Beatty's supervisor, it "does not represent you in this matter."

Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes recently affirmed said Beatty never spoke to anyone in a position of authority about representing him.

"I can say unequivocally we wouldn't represent him unless it was a legitimate complaint he filed with the consumer protection division," Hughes said.

According to Hughes, Beatty remained in the employ of the AG's office until May 2005 when he left for reasons she couldn't disclose. According to court records, Singleton filed a wage garnishment order over a year earlier in March 2004 with the office to collect on the judgment the Beattys owed which, by then, grew to $9,329.66.

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