Slap-Happy: DA Suspended for Unusual Plea Agreement
In Kanawha County, West Virginia, stealing from someone's stash of pain killers located in their personal medicine chest will get you a slap on the wrist. Or maybe the face. That is literally what the alleged victim of this crime suggested she be allowed to do in return for dropping the charges against the defendant. However, here is the "legally weird" part; the assistant D.A. agreed. And of course now, it's the ADA who is getting slapped.
According to a report by the Charleston Gazette, charges were filed against defendant Dallas Jarrett for filching the pills while making repairs to the home of complainant and alleged victim, Deborah McGraw. Ordinarily, this kind of petty theft would earn the defendant up to a year behind bars. In this case, McGraw let the ADA, Stewart Altmeyer, know that she would drop the charges if she could give the defendant just one good slap. Don't tick off a southern gal.
The Gazette reports the proposal was "jokingly" relayed by Altmeyer to Jarrett and his attorney, assistant public defender Katherine Kessell who, sensing a much better deal than exposure to up to one year in jail, passed it on to her client. The judge in this case was actually Kanawha County Magistrate Kim Aaron, but reports indicate she was left out of the loop on this particular deal.
The public defender says the part his attorney played in this slap action is under review, but explains it is really the defense attorney's job to present options, even inappropriate ones to their client, not to exercise any veto power.
Over at the prosecution table, things are not so easy. Altmeyer has been suspended by his boss, Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants. After he returns from his suspension, he will face an additional one-year "improvement period," a sort of probation, Plants told the Gazette. "It's also my understanding that appropriate notice of the incident was provided to the State Bar," he said. That is a real slap in the face.
- Assistant prosecutor suspended for dismissing charge in exchange for a slap (The Charleston Gazette)
- Stages of a Criminal Case: Plea Bargains (FindLaw)
- Theft/Larceny (FindLaw)
- Criminal Defense FAQs (provided by Steven Moore)
- Theft FAQ (provided by Law Offices of Leon J. Mezzetti, Jr., P.C.)
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