WINFIELD – The publisher of a Putnam County news Web site has filed suit against an Ohio contractor for its attempt to stifle a story he was preparing on unlicensed blasting taking place on a new Wal-Mart store near his home.
On July 20, Mark V. Halburn, publisher of PutnamLive.com, filed an abuse of process and retaliation suit in Putnam Circuit Court against Cleveland Construction Inc. of Mentor, Ohio. Also named in the suit is Mark David Koon, CCI's superintendent for the Wal-Mart Supercenter project in Hurricane.
The new Wal-Mart is being built near Courts Motors beside the westbound entrance to Interstae 64 off Hurricane Creek Road.
According to his complaint, Halburn alleges he received information that a CCI sub-contractor was conducting blasting operations without a license. On Jan. 10, Halburn made two calls to Koon for a comment.
According to court records, Koon hung up on Halburn each time without making a comment.
However, in his suit Halburn alleges he "discovered that no blasting license had been issued and that, even though a citation was issued for blasting without a license, somehow or another the charge was dismissed."
As a result of his investigation into the unlicensed blasting, Halburn alleges the "Defendants maliciously and without probable cause, caused a criminal complaint to be issued and served upon Plaintiff whereby he was arrested, incarcerated and compelled to stand trial ..."
Furthermore, Halburn alleges "this prosecution was set afoot by the false and malicious statements given by Koon, and said prosecution was carried out to its termination."
Specifically, Halburn alleges that about 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 11, he was awakened by a knock on his front door. Upon answering the door, Halburn was informed by officers from the Hurricane Police Department he was being arrested for making harassing telephone calls to Koon.
After he was taken to the HPD office "where he was photographed for mug shots and finger printed like a common criminal," Halburn alleges he was "transported to the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville, West Virginia, and detained for a period of approximately nine hours."
After a video arraignment before a magistrate, court records show Halburn was released on $1,000 personal recognizance bond.
Eventually, court records show Halburn stood trial on the charges against him on April 16 before Chief Putnam Magistratre Kylene Brown. Upon hearing "testimony by witnesses on behalf of CCI," Brown dismissed the charges against Halburn.
Despite the dismissal of the charges, Halburn alleges he suffered as result of the "Defendants' wrongful and malicious conduct." Such conduct resulted in his being discharged as a freelance writer for the Charleston Daily Mail and "compelled to pay attorney fees in defense of this action."
Likewise, Halburn alleges "the wide publicity, and the charges made against [him], injured him and his good name and reputation."
Though attorneys Rudolph L. DiTrapano and Heather M. Langeland, with the Charleston law firm of DiTrapano, Barrett and DiPero, Halburn asks he be awarded "an amount that will sufficiently compensate him for his injuries, loss of income, punitive damages, and attorney fees, including court costs and reasonable attorney fees ..."
As of press time, neither CCI nor Koon had replied to Halburn's suit. Dan Wireman, legal counsel for CCI, said he was unaware the suit had been filed.
"We may not have been served on it yet," Wireman said.
Currently, the case is before Chief Putnam Circuit Judge Ed Eagloski. Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding recused himself from the case after it was originally assigned to him.
Putnam Circuit Court case number: 07-C-253