CHARLESTON - The state Supreme Court has annulled the license of a Harrison County attorney following his admission to embezzling money while chairman of a government agency in Hampshire County.
On April 8, the Court ordered the disbarment of Clarksburg attorney Christopher A. Davis. The decision came in response to a petition filed on Nov. 18 by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the investigative arm of the state Bar, following a guilty plea Davis entered in Hampshire Circuit Court to embezzling over $100,000 from the Hampshire Building Commission.
According to ODC's petition, Davis, 38, was indicted by the Hampshire grand jury on January 2, 2008 on nine counts of embezzlement. On July 28, Davis pled guilty to four counts of embezzlement.
As part of his plea agreement, Davis agreed to make $110,967.30 in restitution to the commission. Records show, when he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of West Virginia earlier this year, Davis listed the commission as an unsecured non-priority creditor for $92,000.
On Sept. 11, Senior Status Judge Donald C. Hott ordered that Davis' sentence be deferred. Five days before he was disbarred, his sentence was imposed.
According to Grant County Prosecutor Dennis DiBenedetto, who along with Hardy County Prosecutor Lucas See served as a special prosecutor in the case, said Davis was sentenced to four indeterminate terms of 1-10 years in prison with two to run concurrently, and the two others to run concurrently, but consecutive.
The overall effect, DiBenedetto said, is a 2-20 year sentence. However, Hott ordered Davis would only have to serve 60 days in jail after suspending his sentence, and placing him on five years supervised probation.
Already, Davis has made $10,000 in restitution to the commission, DiBenedetto said.
According to Steven Slonaker, president of the Hampshire County Commission, Davis is a native of Romney, and was appointed as chairman of the building commission two years ago. For reasons unknown, Slonaker said Davis "moved to Clarksburg, and took the [building commission's] books with him."
The building commission, Slonaker said, is an arm of the county commission that channels grant funding to construction or improvements of buildings the commission owns.
Prior to his annulment, Davis, who was admitted to the Bar on March 9, 1999 had 12 complaints filed against him between 2002 and 2007, according to his disciplinary file. ODC dismissed nine of those complaints after an investigation found his actions did not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The remaining three complaints - all filed separately in 2007 by Gail Marple, of Capon Bridge, Timothy A. Hott, of Berkeley Springs and Timothy J. Lindow Sr., of Alma - were also dismissed. However, because they were still under investigation when the Court ordered Davis' annulment, the complaints were placed in a reinstatement file in the event he seeks readmission to the Bar.
In West Virginia, an annulment is an automatic five-year prohibition from practicing law.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Case No. 34601 and Hampshire Circuit Court, Case No. 08-F-1