Two Wood Co. attorneys face trials after class-action case

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 20, 2012

PARKERSBURG – After being on the offensive in a class-action suit, two Wood County attorneys will go on defensive in related lawsuits against them for professional misconduct in a Parkersburg businessman's criminal case.

The first of two civil suits against George Cosenza and Ginny A. Conley begins soon after they represent former employees of St. Joseph's Hospital in a class-action suit against its former parent company, Signature Health Corp. of Houston, Texas. Trial in it is scheduled to begin Jan. 30.

Cosenza, a Parkersburg criminal defense attorney, and Conley, a former Wood County prosecuting attorney, allege Signature failed to pay over 600 former employees their accumulated sick leave following their termination from St. Joseph's prior to its merger with Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital last year. They seek a minimum of $10.8 million in damages.

Almost two months to the day after trial begins in the St. Joseph's class-action suit, Cosenza will be on trial in a legal malpractice suit filed by Jeff Corra. In his suit filed in 2009, Corra alleges Cosenza failed to zealously represent him on charges of furnishing alcohol to minors.

In September 2006, the Wood County grand jury returned nine counts against Corra alleging he provided alcohol to four of his daughter's friends following a visit to their home the month before, which later contributed to them later being involved in a single-vehicle accident. Four months later, Corra was indicted on two counts of involuntary manslaughter alleging the alcohol he provided them resulted in the deaths of two men who died in it.

Following the indictments, Corra maintained his innocence saying though he was aware the four friends stopped by, he never furnished them any alcohol. It was later he learned that one of them snuck a Coors Light beer from his refrigerator.

In August 2007, a jury found Corra guilty on four of the furnishing charges. Wood Circuit Judge Robert A. Waters sentenced him to 10 days in jail and a $100 fine for each charge.

However, in February 2009, the state Supreme Court overturned Corra's conviction. The Court found, among other things, the prosecution erroneously indicted him with furnishing alcoholic liquors to minors all the while presenting evidence he enabled them to drink beer.

The Court's ruling was the centerpiece of a wrongful prosecution suit he filed a year later against Conley, who decided on the eve of the day of the filing period not to see re-election in 2008, and Sean Francisco, the assistant prosecutor assigned the case. His suit accuses Conley and Francisco of being overzealous in indicting him on both the furnishing, and involuntary manslaughter charges.
Records show Corra never was brought to trial on the latter within three terms of the court, or one year, following the indictment. Also, the indictments were not dismissed until September 2009, another six terms of court.

Conley along with Francisco, and Dave Tennant and Bret Pickens, two Wood County Sheriff's deputies who aided in the investigation against Corra, go on trial April 17. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 30, three days after the start of Corra's trial against Cosenza.

Both Cosenza and Conley have denied the allegations against them, and Cosenza has countersued Corra alleging he still owes him $12,000 in attorneys fess. Judges J.D. Beane and Jeffrey B. Reed, who are assigned Cosenza's and Conley's cases, respectively, have denied separate motions to dismiss them.

Wood Circuit Court case numbers 09-C-426 (Cosenza legal malpractice) and 10-C-79 (Conley wrongful prosecution)

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