Lewis Co. businessman hounds Elkins attorney in prosecutor bid

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 11, 2012

EKLINS – At least one person seeking to fill the vacancy of former Randolph County Prosecutor Richard Busch received some opposition to his candidacy.

Among the attorneys vying to become Randolph's interim prosecutor for the next year was Dwight R. Hall. Along with Frank P. Bush Jr., Kurt W. Hall, Christina Harper, Phillip Isner, Earl W. Maxwell and Michael W. Parker, Hall -- who ran unsuccessfully in the 2008 Democratic primary for prosecutor -- submitted his name to the Randolph County Commission for consideration to fill Busch's unexpired term.

On Dec. 5, Busch abruptly resigned as prosecutor following multiple allegations of misconduct, including making misrepresentations to the court – for which he was held in contempt by Randolph Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong – and how he managed his office.

After interviewing all the candidates over two days, the Commission on Dec. 23 selected Parker, who previously worked as an assistant prosecutor before leaving for McNeer, Highland and McMunn & Varner's Elkins office in 2008. He was sworn-in as prosecutor on Jan. 3.

In a letter dated Dec. 16, Jerry L. Burkhammer, a salvage yard owner in Weston, wrote Commission President Mike Taylor encouraging he, and the other commissioners to pass over Hall as Busch's replacement. In his letter, Burkhammer said if past performance is any indication, Hall would be just as bad, if not worse, than Busch.

As he did in his ethics complaint to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Burkhammer detailed to the Commission how Hall failed to provide him little, if any, legal assistance in his 2007 criminal case in Tucker County. At the time, Burkhammer was charged with one count each of violation of a protective order, and attempt to commit conspiracy, both misdemeanors.

The sum total of Hall's representation, Burkhammer said, was a brief meeting they had at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Elkins after Burkhammer made a surprise visit to his office when Hall failed to return his repeated telephone calls. That day, he said he found Hall not at his office, but at magistrate court where his wife works.

Also, despite his requests, Burkhammer says Hall failed to make a motion to have Magistrate Carol Irons recused from presiding at his July 2008 trial. Though Burkhammer explained to him how Irons might have a conflict of interest due to her not only serving as a bailiff during his abuse and neglect case that led to the termination of his parental rights, but also later confiding to her how he believed his ex-girlfriend, Sheryl Connor-Kines, used the proceeding to gain control of their daughter, Lindsay Brooke, from him, he said Hall failed to take heed.

In his letter, Burkhammer gave Hall credit for not only appealing his conviction on the violation of a protective order to circuit court, but also moving to have Judge Philip Jordan recused from the case. Hall made the motion on the grounds that Jordan, who presided in the abuse and neglect proceeding, referred to Burkhammer as a pedophile despite the fact Burkhammer has never been arrested or convicted of any sexual-related crime.

Nevertheless, Burkhammer said Jordan upheld his conviction and affirmed Irons' ruling that he serve the maximum sentence of six months in jail. Following Jordan's ruling, Hall resigned from Burkhammer's case, and another attorney was appointed to help in his appeal.

The failure of that attorney, Chad Cissel, to adequately help him with his appeal led Burkhammer to file a complaint against both he, and Hall with ODC in Oct. 2010. Shortly after he filed it, ODC dismissed his complaint against Hall saying he missed the deadline to file it.

In his letter, Burkhammer detailed how Hall had a problem in providing legal assistance to other court-appointed clients. He recounted the admonishment ODC gave him in 2002 for not helping Michael Williams the year before file a writ of habeas corpus, and how Jack Hinchman in Tucker County, and William J. Clark in Gilmer County separately in 2005 accused Hall of not only "incompetent representation, but coming to court either drunk or smelling of alcohol."

Burkhammer disclosed that ODC dismissed Hinchman's and Clark's complaints.

Nevertheless, he said all the complaints, including his, taken together show "how inept of an attorney Mr. Hall is." Despite being a resident of Lewis County, Burkhammer said he felt he would be remiss if he didn't bring accounts of Hall's ineptitude to the Commission's attention.

"I believe the people of Randolph County would be done a disservice if Mr. Hall was allowed to serve one minute, let alone one year, as prosecutor," Burkhammer said.

The West Virginia Record attempted to get a comment from Commission President Mike Taylor about Burkhammer's letter, and what effect, if any, it had on their decision. He was unavailable for comment, and did not return repeated calls by presstime.

The Record also sought a comment from Hall. He, too, was unavailable for comment and did not return repeated telephone calls.

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