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Kanawha Prosecutor Plants Responds To Filing That Seeks His Suspension

Reported: Apr. 21, 2014 11:42 AM EDT
Updated: Apr. 21, 2014 6:16 PM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) -- Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants fires back at calls by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for his suspension.

The response, filed Friday, by Harrisburg, Pennsylvania attorney Robert H. Davis, Jr. says the emergency petition by the ODC is excessive and illogical. The response says that Plants wishes to continue to perform the duties of his office that the citizens of Kanawha County have elected him to do.

Plants continues to say he's not guilty of any crime after being accused of using excessive force when disciplining his 11-year-old son. Plants is currently facing charges of domestic battery and violating a domestic violence protective order. State police say Plants struck his son more than ten times with a belt, leaving a 6 to 7 inch "U" shaped bruise.

The ODC has asked the supreme court for his immediate suspension, and/or disqualification of his entire office from prosecuting certain cases of domestic violence.

In a telephone interview on Monday, Davis called the charge "relatively minor" and "questionable." He says the emergency petition is "extraordinary" and "overreaching."

"Trying to drive a tack with a sledgehammer is one of the phrases we use," said Davis.

The ODC believes there is a conflict of interest with Plants and his office prosecuting cases of domestic violence involving parents and children. The city of Charleston has also filed a motion to have Plants removed from their domestic cases along those lines.

"We have very, very many cases that are factually similar to what prosecutor is accused of. That causes us great concern and the longer this drags out, as we wait to hear what's going to happen, I think our investigators feel like we're kind of sitting on our hands because it's not good for the victims. It's not good for the suspects, for that matter," said Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster.

The response says Plants "spanked his child after he admitted to Respondent that he had punched and embarrassed his much smaller and young step brother in front of neighborhood children. Respondent admits he spanked his son with a belt."

Plants says the entire incident of spanking and apology lasted no more than 20 seconds. The response says Plants went back to his son's room about five minutes later, told him he loved him but, "as your Dad, I can't let you hit people."

Plants says the child never complained or mentioned the spanking until the bruise was seen by the child's brother four days later.

The response that goes on to say the "small amount of bail and release on recognizance...indicate the relative lack of seriousness of the charges."

"It's their life and their safety and the safety of their children and their families that are involved. I would never say that a domestic violence case isn't serious," said Kim Eagle, Charleston Police's crime victim's specialist.

"That is a very interesting comment to say the least, and it can be interpreted in a few different way but in my mind, as an investigator, a former investigator and now the police chief, that response was best left unsaid," Webster said.

Davis said that's not the message they are trying to send.

"It doesn't mean that domestic violence isn't a crime that's one that Mark isn't concerned with, but generally, again we are talking about that in light of the seriousness required to bring an emergency petition for removal of a lawyer," he said.

The supreme court is scheduled to privately meet this week.

There is a hearing Tuesday in front of Judge Duke Bloom in reference to the city's motion to have Plants and his office removed from their domestic violence cases.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) – Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants has fired back at the emergency petition to have him suspended from office or his entire staff disqualified from certain cases of domestic violence.

On April 11, the Office of Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel asked the Supreme Court to immediately suspend Plants in light of his arrest on a domestic battery charge, that accuses him of striking his son repeatedly with a belt, leaving a large bruise. On Friday, this response was filed calling the disciplinary counsel’s petition excessive and illogical.

In it, Plants said he had not committed a violation of the West Virginia rules of professional conduct and there is no threat of harm, much less irreparable harm to the public pending the disposition of the criminal charges, and this no reason for action by the Supreme Court at this time.

Plants says he wishes to continue, as he has successfully done in the past, to perform the duties of his office as the citizens of Kanawha County have elected him to perform them. Plants has previously said he has a constitutional right to discipline his child and has asked for the domestic battery charge to be dismissed. The disciplinary counsel said that presents a conflict of interest, something else that Plants denies exists. His office is currently not handling certain domestic violence and child abuse cases until his charges are resolved. Plants argues that the small amount of bail and his release on a personal recognizance bond shows the "relative lack of seriousness of the charges."

In the filing, Plants said the belt striking incident lasted no more than 20 seconds, which included his son's apology to his stepbrother. Plants said he was disciplining his son after he punched and embarrassed his smaller stepbrother in front of some neighbors. Five minutes later, the filing said, Plants returned to his son's room, told him he loved him, and said, “As your dad, I can't let you hit people." Plants says his ex-wife, Allison, also spanks with a belt, and the child never complained or mentioned the incident. His brother noticed the bruise four days later.

The state Supreme Court meets this week and could decide then if there is good cause for filing by the disciplinary counsel. Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom has scheduled a hearing to take up the city of Charleston's motion to have Plants removed from their cases of domestic violence involving parents and children.

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