CLARKSBURG - Motions to dismiss indictments against a Wheeling area attorney and a Barbour County investigator have been granted by a Harrison County Circuit Court judge.
Judge John Lewis Marks Jr. granted the motions Tuesday to dismiss indictments returned in May 2013 against attorney Paul Harris and private investigator Franklin D. Streets.
In a separate case, Harris is currently representing 20-year-old Brittany Mae Keene in the federal civil lawsuit she filed against Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins, which alleges the sheriff sexually assaulted her. Streets, who is also investigating the Keene case, has filed his own lawsuit in Barbour County Circuit Court against Hawkins for an allegedly libelous Facebook post.
In May 2013, a Harrison County grand jury returned unrelated indictments against Streets and Harris regarding their alleged actions in connection to the trial of then-Shinnston Police Officer Kevin Junkins, whom Harris, assisted by Streets, was representing at the time.
Junkins was alleged to have removed controlled substances from the Shinnston Police Department's evidence locker that had been seized from a third party. Junkins then allegedly delivered those substances to Carl Wilson, who planned to sell them, according to the motion to dismiss the indictments.
The motion to dismiss reveals that the state believed it had gathered enough evidence to argue that Harris and Streets "paid and threatened" Carl Wilson "to absent himself from the trial of Kevin Junkins," presumably because Wilson "gave a statement regarding the facts and provided (to the prosecution) text messages (from Junkins)" that were saved on his cellphone. That statement and the text messages could have been damaging to Harris' case, as he was representing Junkins.
In a six-count indictment in May, Streets was charged with threats in official and political matters, conspiracy to commit threats in official and political matters, intimidation of a witness, conspiracy to commit intimidation of a witness, obstructing a law enforcement officer and conspiracy to commit obstructing a law enforcement officer.
In a four-count indictment also returned in May, Harris was charged with conspiracy to commit threats in official and political matters, conspiracy to commit intimidation of a witness, obstructing a law enforcement officer and conspiracy to commit obstructing a law enforcement officer.
Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Shaffer said his office filed the motion this week to dismiss the indictments against Paul J. Harris of Harris Law Offices and Franklin D. Streets Jr. of Barbour County because two key witnesses in the case - Carl Wilson and his wife, Danielle Wilson - have passed away.
"We had two witnesses against Mr. Harris - Danielle Wilson, and she passed away in September 2013, and our other main witness, Carl J. Wilson Jr., passed away Feb. 1," Shaffer said during an interview at the Harrison County Courthouse Wednesday.
"Mr. Harris and Mr. Streets have the right to cross-examine their accusers, and we have no other testimony of Mr. Wilson that would be subject to cross- examination.
"Without that evidence, it is incumbent upon the prosecution due to the rules of ethics as well as constitutional considerations to seek a dismissal," Shaffer added.
He said the indictments were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought up in court again.
However, other charges may be filed, Shaffer said.
"We are contemplating filing criminal contempt charges against Mr. Harris because Mr. Harris is alleged to have attempted to make indirect contact with Mr. Wilson after Mr. Harris was indicted and ordered by the court not to make any direct or indirect contact (with Wilson) without the permission of the court."
According to the motion to dismiss, Carl Wilson told the state that during a meeting with Streets behind the Elder-Beerman building at Meadowbrook Mall, Streets allegedly told him that Harris "was a mob attorney" and "not someone you wanted to cross." Streets allegedly went on to tell Carl Wilson that Harris "was one of those guys that would not only kill you but kill your family, your dog, (sic) and your cat if you crossed him," according to the motion to dismiss.
When reached for comment, Harris' attorney, Robert McCoid of the Wheeling law firm McCamic, Sacco & McCoid PLLC, said Harris was "without equivocation not a mob lawyer."
"He is highly respected, he is formidable, he is a hard-charging lawyer," McCoid said, "but not by any standard would he engage in unethical conduct or have broken the law to win cases."
McCoid also said that although Harris is "very happy to have the case behind him, he is sorry that the dismissal was caused by the deaths of the state's witnesses."
"It has been reported to us that the state witness CJ (Carl) Wilson died from a heroin overdose as did his wife, Danielle, who also died from a heroin overdose last fall," McCoid said. "While Mr. Harris regrets their deaths, he also regrets that he was unable to be vindicated on the merits of the case because he believes that Mr. Wilson, had he been sworn to testify in front of a jury, would have told the truth and would have exonerated Mr. Harris."
In July 2013, Harris filed a 15-count lawsuit on Keene's behalf in U.S. District for the Northern District of West Virginia, alleging that Hawkins sexually assaulted Keene and then threatened to kill her if she told anyone; the suit also accuses Hawkins of sexually assaulting five other unnamed females, referenced only as Females No. 1-5.
Precisely one week after Harris filed the federal civil suit against Hawkins on Keene's behalf, Streets filed a lawsuit in Barbour County Circuit Court against Hawkins that accuses the sheriff of libel and defamation - accusations stemming from Streets' investigation of the Keene case.
On June 24, 2013, Hawkins posted the following statement on his Facebook page: "Well if there is a good side to any of this, I have received a couple calls from people who were offered money by the investigator to sign false statements. Hmmmm. Print that on the front page! Anyway, logging off FB for a while friends so please don't be offended if I don't return your messages. Be safe. God bless you all!"
Streets is being represented by Harris' associate attorney, Shawn Fluharty, also of Harris Law Offices, in the suit. Fluharty alleges that the sheriff wrote the post to discredit investigative work performed by Streets in the Brittany Keene case.
Specially, Fluharty writes that, "Upon information and belief, this publication (Facebook post) is made by (Hawkins) in retaliation for investigative work (Streets) performed regarding a lawsuit filed against John W. Hawkins and others (the Barbour County Commission) by a third person (Keene)."
Although the Barbour County Commission and Hawkins are named as codefendants in the lawsuit brought by Keene, several charges against the Commission have been dismissed.
In a Dec. 16, 2013, ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey ordered that five counts in the 15-count complaint be dismissed insofar as they pertain to the Commission.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at IMT-Kuba.